Travel and Leisure

Australian Aboriginal Rock Art Gallery

Would you like to see ancient rock art in Queensland?

By Jocelyn Watts

It’s no secret that Australian Aboriginal rock art galleries are among the best ancient rock art galleries in the world.

Now you have a chance to see a previously little-known Aboriginal rock art gallery featuring thousands of ancient paintings and etchings has opened, right here in Queensland.

In 2020, the gallery at Gracevale Station near Aramac in western Queensland opened to the public, just a year after being returned to its traditional owners and renamed Turraburra.

Now the local Iningai people are planning to create a multimillion-dollar education centre at the site.   

This Queensland rock art gallery joins about 100,000 sites Australia-wide, such as the Kakadu National Park, The Kimberley, and the Flinders Ranges.

Australia’s rock art galleries date back 30,000 years or more and attract thousands of tourists every year.

For more information visit https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-18/turraburra-gracevale-indigenous-art-site-opens-queensland/12776038 and https://www.australiantraveller.com/australia/seven-amazing-aboriginal-rock-art-sites/

Photo Gallery

In 2012, I was fortunate enough to join a tour of Gracevale Station and Gray Rock with Artesian Country Tours, which has since folded. This photo gallery shows some of my images from that tour.

 

We cannot display this gallery

Related Images:

Take a reef tour of Hinchinbrook Channel with Swainie

UPDATE: Experienced fisherman Andrew Heard, 69, is believed to have been taken by a crocodile near Hinchinbrook Island on 11 February 2021. 

For details visit https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-13/body-found-missing-fisherman-andrew-heard-crocodile-attack/13152026

For details on how to be croc wise visit https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/animals/living-with/crocodiles/croc-wise

Top 5 ways to unwind with a reef tour from Cardwell, but be croc wise!

If you’re looking for a top spot to relax, far away from city crowds and office desks, the Hinchinbrook Channel near Cardwell is one of the best in Queensland.

Port of Call skipper Annette Swaine lives and breathes a boatie’s life, taking reef tours through the channel and helping people with their boating and fishing supplies.

“I’ve found my happy place,” she beamed.

I met Annette, affectionately known as ‘Swainie’, while recently visiting one of my sons, Steve, and his family in Tully where they now live and work, in paradise.  And I thought I was lucky just to visit!

When Steve suggested taking a reef tour through the Hinchinbrook Channel with Swainie, he didn’t have to twist my arm. The tour is listed on TripAdvisor as one of the best in the region. I quickly agreed.

Swainie was a terrific host, sharing lots of information throughout the four-hour trip onboard Osprey, Port of Call’s Sailfish Cat.

Here are the top 5 things I learnt about the area that day:  

1. Crab fossils wash ashore at Ramsay Bay

Annette Swaine showing fossilised crabs found at Ramsay Bay

Annette Swaine shows fossilised crabs found at Ramsay Bay on Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland.

Taking us ashore at Ramsay Bay, Swainie showed us crab fossils that had washed onto the beach. The species was unknown. Could they be rare Fiddler Crabs?

The Discover Port Hinchinbrook website reads:

“Fossilised crabs, including a species of Fiddler Crab (6000 years old) are found in the creeks of the Island and on the shore of Ramsay Bay.

“There are only two other places (Southern California and the Panama Canal) in the world where fossilised Fiddler Crabs have been found.”

Alas, Dr Marissa McNamara, Queensland Museum Collection Manager Crustacea, said this fossil was not a Fiddler Crab.

“It is a crab, but unfortunately the species cannot be determined from the photograph,” Dr McNamara said. 

“This crab specimen is termed a subfossil. It is probably 5000 to 8000 years old, and as such represents one of the same species that we see living in the area today.

“Subfossils are often casts of crabs that have been in their burrows and gotten smothered with a heavy load of siltation from a flood.

“Generally soft-muddy bottom inshore or mangrove species are found, like mud crabs or sentinel crabs.

“Fiddler Crabs are not typically represented.

“Often fossils like this are deposited during times when the sea level was somewhat higher, and that is why they can get washed out of river banks or mangroves during cyclones or any change to the path of creek channels.

“They often turn up around the mouth of the Brisbane River, and Magnetic is another hot spot, but they can be found in many places, including Hinchinbrook Island.”

2. Hinchinbrook Channel is a nature photographer’s paradise

Sea creature at Ramsay Bay

Sea creatures can be found on the beach of Ramsay Bay.

Heavy fog blanketed Cardwell as we set off about 8 am but soon we were beyond the fog and cruising across the tranquil waterway towards Hinchinbrook Island.

A few nautical miles out, eagle-eyed Swainie spotted a saltwater crocodile in an area they liked to frequent. She said crocs were regularly sighted there.

Saltwater crocodiles can be found from the tip of Cape York to as far south as Gladstone, and sometimes even further.

Queensland Department of Environment and Science records show crocodile sightings were reported at Burrum Heads and Toogoom as recently as April 2020.  

Swainie said Hinchinbrook Channel was a major feeding ground for dugongs.

“Dolphins, green turtles and a wide variety of fish and crustaceans also live in the waterway,” she said.

Fishing wasn’t on our agenda but I was able to photograph garfish as they skimmed across the water’s surface. It was a photo opportunity too good to miss.

The area also supports a rich diversity of birdlife, including Torresian Imperial Pigeons, Torres Strait Pigeons (Ducula spilorrhoa) or nutmeg pigeons.

While ashore at Ramsay Bay, we were on the lookout for the vulnerable beach thick-knees (Burhinus neglectus), but we weren’t that lucky.

On Hinchinbrook Island, the tropical habitat also provides refuge for many endangered species including the giant tree frog.  

3. You can get closer to nature on the Thorsborne Trail

Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland.

The Thorsborne Trail winds its way along the eastern edge of Hinchinbrook Island.

A few days earlier, Swainie had dropped off some backpackers at Ramsay Bay as they set off to hike the Thorsborne Trail (commonly known as the East Coast Trail).

The Discover Port Hinchinbrook website lists the Thorsborne Trail as one of the world’s best backpacking adventures.

“This 32km trail winds its way along the eastern edge of the magnificent island in the shadow of the rugged Mt Bowen,” it reads.

“It snakes its way through a tropical wilderness, along spectacular ocean beaches and crosses numerous crystal clear mountain streams.

“Campsites are on beautiful beaches, beside freshwater streams or near magnificent mountain stream waterfalls.”

As part of our reef tour, Swainie picked up the backpackers from George Point on the island’s southern end and ferried them back to Cardwell, all with cameras holding hundreds of photos of their adventure.

4. Charter a boat and go fishing   

Port of Call Boating and Fishing Supplies at Cardwell

Fishing is a popular pastime at Cardwell and Hinchinbrook Island in North Queensland. 

 Throwing a line in the water might have provided us with a dinner of fish that night, except this was an impromptu trip.

With some forward planning, things might have been different. 

Swainie said North Queensland was internationally renowned as one of Australia’s tourism destinations.

“The Hinchinbrook Channel with its tranquil waters is an angler’s paradise,” she said.

“On the reef, you can fish for coral trout, mackerel, giant trevally or nannygai. Barramundi and mangrove jack can be found in the estuaries and rivers.”

5. Research history

Rugged mountains on Hinchinbrook Island

A warplane that crashed in the rugged mountains of Hinchinbrook Island in 1941 remains scattered at the site.

 If you’re into researching history, there’s no shortage of topics with which to while away the hours in the Hinchinbrook Island and Cardwell areas.

After picking up the backpackers from George Point, we headed back to Cardwell. On the way, Swainie pointed to where the wreckage of a World War II plane still lies.

A Queensland Government website that’s dedicated to World War II history reports (in part) that on 18 December 1941, a USAAF Liberator bomber known as ‘Texas Terror’ lifted off from Garbutt airbase, Townsville, for Iron Range on Cape York Peninsula but soon disappeared.

Searches were made but no trace of the plane was found until two Aborigines searching the gullies on Hinchinbrook Island for alluvial tin reported finding some burned US currency in the creeks at the base of Mount Straloch.

In early 1944, searchers found the wreckage on the southern flank of Mount Straloch. The aircraft had struck the face of the mountain some 150 to 180 metres below the summit, killing all 12 people on board.

The wreckage remains scattered over the area.

For more information on the wreckage, visit https://wanderstories.space/mt-straloch/ 

A return trip is on our bucket list

Our impromptu reef tour with Port of Call skipper Swainie gave us a preview of what we could see and do, in and around the Hinchinbrook Channel. A return trip is definitely on our bucket list.

Port of Call Boating and Fishing is located at Port Hinchinbrook, Cardwell. For more information visit https://portofcallshop.com.au/about-us/%20

Details on Hinchinbrook Island can be found at www.porthinchinbrook.com.au and https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/hinchinbrook

Reef Tour_Hinchinbrook Channel_012

Image 1 of 6

Port of Call Boating and Fishing Supplies tour of the Hinchinbrook Channel on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

RELATED STORIES

 

 

 

Related Images:

Chill factor tops in Toowoomba

Why visit Toowoomba in winter?

By Jocelyn Watts

If you’re planning a trip to the capital of the Darling Downs, be sure to take all the warmth-providing apparel you can fit in your suitcase. And I don’t mean just in winter.

The city’s well-known chill factor can happen at any time of the year.

I vividly recall wearing a tracksuit while visiting Toowoomba mid-summer in the 1980s. 

Located on a crest of the Great Dividing Range about 125km west of Brisbane, Toowoomba is one of the chilliest cities in Queensland.

It also has a reputation for high winds, hail and fog throughout winter. 

If skiing is a non-event, why is the chill factor so inviting?

While the opportunity for skiing as you might in Australia’s southern states is pretty much zero, it has snowed in Toowoomba on rare occasions. However, its climate is officially subtropical.

So if it’s cold but you can’t ski, what is it about Toowoomba that makes visiting there in winter so inviting?

Let’s start with snuggling under a cozy rug on a sofa beside an open fireplace with flames twisting around blackened wood as it slowly turns to charcoal. It’s mesmerizing!

How I felt the warmth of a fireplace (before venturing into the cold)

Embracing the warmth of a fireplace is how I spent my first night at Beccles on Margaret B & B in July 2015 when I visited Toowoomba for the then annual, pre-COVID-19, USQ Bookcase

Bitterly cold winds had forced many businesses to close early that day so owners and employees could go home to shelter from the severe weather conditions.

As I arrived, my B&B host greeted me at the car and hurriedly carried my suitcase inside.

Soon she offered me a mug of hot chocolate and invited me to join her in conversation beside the fireplace. Nice.

Beccles on Margaret

Beccles on Margaret.

As I drifted off to sleep that night, I had visions of photographing icy dewdrops hanging from tree branches at the city’s Ju Raku En Japanese Garden in the wee hours of the morning.

The below-freezing weather was perfect for ice photography, or so I thought.

Before dawn, I ventured out to the Japanese garden at the University of Southern Queensland and waited in my car for the sun to rise.

It wasn’t long before three bare-chested men jogged past me, apparently not letting the cold weather get in the way of their exercise regime.

“They must be crazy,” I thought.

But there I was, shivering behind my steering wheel as the warmth of my breath fogged the inside of my windscreen while I waited for daybreak to take photos of ice! Who was the crazy one?

Turns out, however, cold air needs to contain moisture to form the water droplets that I envisaged having turned to ice, but there was not even a hint of moisture in the air that morning. Doh!

Hello chill factor, my old friend

In August 2020 I was back in Toowoomba visiting a *Pierre’s son and his girlfriend who had just moved to the city. Again, it was mid-winter and the city’s chill factor was ever-present.

As Pierre’s son did what he does best in a soccer match at Gatton, about 50km from Toowoomba, we sat in spectator seats under a warm winter sun, peeling off our jumpers.

Just hours later at another match in Toowoomba, the familiar chill I’d known from previous visits to the city and Warwick, and having lived in the nearby towns of Nanango and Chinchilla, had wrapped itself around my ears again.

Things to see and do in Toowoomba

Toowoomba Railway Station

Toowoomba Railway Station

Toowoomba, a city of nearly 137,000 people, is beautiful and full of life when its annual Carnival of Flowers takes place in September yet equally inviting in winter, albeit for different reasons.

That’s when us Queenslanders get to experience the warmth and glow of indoor fireplaces without having to travel to Australia’s Snowy Mountains or Sweden.

It’s also the perfect time of year to experience Toowoomba’s arts, food and cultural scenes.

On our recent visit, we lunched at Picnic Point and dined at Sofra-Turkish-Cuisine on Margaret Street, Toowoomba’s second most popular restaurant according to TripAdvisor.

The city is a major centre for commerce, industry and education, and has Australia’s second-highest population for inland cities behind Canberra, which has nearly 421,000 people.

Discover history charted in Toowoomba’s buildings

Toowoomba’s European origin can be traced back to 1816 and much of its history can be seen in its buildings. 

Before leaving the city, bound for the Bunya Mountains, we did a drive-by tour of its historic and modern public buildings (pictured below).

These included the Empire Theatres, railway station, library, and St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, and yes, we still had our warm jackets, scarves, boots firmly packed for the next leg of our mid-winter journey.

Toowoomba's distinctive buildings.

Japanese Garden, Toowoomba.

*Pierre is not his real name.