Chasing Waterfalls In A Spaceship
Australia's roads are dominated by grey nomads in their swish motorhomes, holiday-makers in there 4x4's loaded with gear, and finally, by many a camper-van, hired or owned, shuttling travellers the length and breadth of the land.
With vastly warm and dry weather (outside of wet season) and a wide range of amazing animals and stunning sights to see, people are spoilt for choice of where to visit and park up for a spot of camping in Northern Queensland.
We have, until now, relied on hitching and ride-share's to get around, occasionally lucking out with a car such as when we did our farm work, but mostly, we have been without wheels and the freedom they can bring.
When it came time to leave Noosa behind and follow warmer weather up north, we knew based on all the beautiful things we were yet to see, that the time to drive had arrived. We didn't want to rent a car and use our tent, having spent so long recently camping in wet weather and feeling a bit fed-up by it, and so we began researching camper-van companies...
We happened across Spaceships, highly familiar for their bright orange people-carriers, seen up and down the coast. Offering great value for travellers, with a solid amount of positive reviews, we felt confident in contacting them.
Fast-forward 4 weeks, and the day came to pick up our own Spaceship and embark on a 10-day tour of the Atherton Tablelands and the Daintree Rainforest.
She's not the trademark orange, being a newer silver model, the Beta 2.
Fitted out with an adjustable queen-size bed, two large lockable storage units (underneath the bed) a top-of-the-range fridge (retail for $000's) plus lots of little nifty extras, she was the perfect vehicle to take us on a road-trip in the tropics.
Comfortable and roomy, secure and private, Stargazer (every spaceship has a name) is well designed and much improved on older model vans. With tinted windows, curtains to cordon off the whole bedroom section, plus automatic transmission and a smooth drive, we really lucked out with our little home on wheels.
Our Favourite Camping App
We exclusively used Wikicamp's, and a sat-nav (provided by Spaceships but usually costs extra) to get around and choose where to sleep. Most look-outs, rest areas and points of interest are very well sign-posted too, usually giving you plenty of time to anticipate them.
Wikicamp's is great for not just finding camp-sites for overnight stays but also locating toilets, showers, fuel stops, and things to see and do. You can download the map for each state in Australia, always helpful when you drive in and out of signal black-spots. You can buy the app for lots of extra features (as is required to after the 20-day trial period ends), but we used the free version, timing ir to last our trip.
The thing I like most about the app is the comments section where people leave brief but honest appraisals for their fellow campers, touching on the things you really want to know about free or paid camp-sites, like does the place have hot showers, and if its value for money.
We evidently loved having this app to aid us in our journey, and no, we don't need to be paid to express that!
Cairns > Atherton Tablelands
The tablelands are abundant in quaint small towns, sprawling green landscapes and the infamous waterfalls, including Millaa Millaa, with a safe (and completely bone-chilling) swimming pool.
We spent our first night at a site called Bonadio RV and Nature Park, which when we first arrived appeared to be a farm, with no other campers to be seen. It turned out our fellow road-trippers were comfortably nestled away in a paddock just over the hill, just a short walk from the Barron River where you can see platypus. Really friendly hosts only recently opened the site but seemed bowled over with the popularity of their little haven just off the highway.
For $12.50 for the both of us, it was a great place to sleep under the stars, with clean and warm showers, a wildlife viewing platform and a peaceful country-setting.
Atherton Tablelands > Port Douglas
Moving from the tablelands further up the coast, we took the super beautiful highway alongside the ocean up to Port Douglas. Stopping at a few lookouts, and the famous spot where over the years many people have built little rock towers, it was such a pleasant section of driving.
Accommodation was really booked up, so we highly recommend booking ahead for this highly popular location. We did manage to squeeze into the Pandanus campsite for the slightly hefty price of $20 each, but the site itself has a nice pool, well-equipped camp kitchen, showers and laundry, and is a short walk from the beach and the town.
Port Douglas itself has a great vibe and felt like a more beautiful and atmospheric version of Noosa. A beach perfect for a dip, and a main street great for finding affordable eats, onto a sprawling park right beside the ocean and harbour, we know we will be returning to this place.
Port Douglas > Daintree Village
We couldn't wait to visit this part of northern Queensland, not only for the chance of spotting a wild crocodile but also to experience things like Mossman Gorge. We spent the good part of a day here, where they try to dissuade you taking the easy, flat, road-side walking route in favour of their paid bus; we are glad we walked because it wasn't tough or dangerous, at all.
It kinda bugged us that they have cut off the road which leads to the gorge so that their buses can exclusively use it and make money from it, although, the area has big ties to a small aboriginal community located there, so we understood the need to protect that.
For two nights we camped at the Daintree Riverview Lodges and Van park, for $10 each. A rustic but small site, situated right beside a great croc-spotting place on the Daintree river, we loved our chilled out days here. The hosts are friendly and welcoming, the facilities regularly cleaned and there are a few nice cafe's located just across the road.
Daintree Village > Cape Tribulation
The previous few days had been endless sunshine and nice temperatures, but this day, the rain came down full-force. Unfortunately this tainted our visit to the Cape, and we only stayed for one day, at the Jungle Lodge, which was $15 each for a roomy gravel pitch, with access to good facilities, a pool and a camp kitchen.
I think you could easily stop at all the short walks and lookouts available from the ferry, to the end of the main road at the Cape Tribulation, in one day, and it would all be a whole lot more photogenic on a sunny day. Still, the cape itself is a very pretty stretch of beach, frequented by many a croc (no swimming, obviously).
There is no phone signal (or free atm's or cheap shops) in the Cape so we recommend researching your accommodation before getting there, but when you take the ferry (costs $26 return) across you are provided with a great map which marks off all the spots and bays worth stopping at on the drive.
Cape Tribulation > Atherton
We didn't stay long in the cape, not just because of the weather but because there were still things we wanted to see in the tablelands. This day we stopped off at the Woolworths in Mossman (a good spot for getting supplies before going to the Daintree) and then headed over to a rest stop for lunch. We then parked up in the tiny town of Mount Molloy, grabbed a smoothie from the cool spot, Ka-Veh, then camped at a free spot for the night, the Rifle Creek rest area located nearby.
The next day we headed to the waterfalls circuit, where we visited Elinnja and Zillie falls, then headed back towards Malanda to grab lunch, then deciding to head to the coast again for that night.
Atherton > Mission Beach
Mission Beach is a small beach town near the Tully river, which is Banana country; lots of stops for fresh fruit are along the highway here.
We spent one evening here, chilling at a cool hostel, the Mission Beach retreat, with two resident pet dogs and a super friendly owner. $24 for a space in the parking spot and full use of the facilities, this was a comfortable stop after some free stays in random rest areas with cold showers.
Mission Beach > Babinda
Leaving Mission Beach, we headed up the highway again to visit Josephine Falls, where you can safely slide down the side of some huge boulders into the cold torrents below. We then headed to visit the Boulders, a pretty area similar to the gorge with its own swimming hole.
We again camped at a free spot, a really small site right next to the Boulders, which had only around 6 spots limited to 5 people per pitch. A clearly well-maintained site with cold showers and toilets, it was perfectly okay for one evening, with the mountainous setting providing yet more lush green views from the camper-van.
Mission Beach > Cairns
On our last morning we returned to Cairns, pretty tired from 10 days of doing things, driving and visiting unfamiliar places. We checked into the Globetrotters hostel which is an affordable but great value option at $28 a night, with awesome free wifi, free breakfasts, airy bedrooms, and lots of space to relax.
Later that day we took our Spaceship to a car wash and then returned her back to the office.
Walking away we felt a little sad, having bonded with Stargazer, who kept us comfortable and safe as we experienced the beautiful Australian country-side, at our own pace, for a really memorable week.
Our Spaceships experience was seamless, from picking up the vehicle to navigating the Aussie roads. So if you fancy a break from tent life and coach rides, in favour of road-trippin' affordably but super comfortably, getting your very own set of wheels is the way to go.
*Spaceships kindly supplied us with the van minus the daily rental fee. We also received camp chairs + table, a sat-nav and two awnings, at no cost. We did however pay the daily fee for car insurance and supplied all our own fuel and food, and paid for all camping costs*
Thanks for reading!
Hannah and Taran here. We hail from Southern England, where we met online and are now realizing our mutual passion for travel here at Nomad'erHowFar. We discuss Nomadic Living, Simplifying your Life and Long-term Travel, to empower, motivate and inspire our readers. Get to know us here!
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