Located just off the province of Queensland, this tiny island paradise recalls Australia’s primordial past. Craggy mountains ringed with mangrove swamps meet sandy shores licked by clear ocean waves. The untrammeled depths of the island can only be reached on foot; there are no roads. For all of you adventurers looking to find a remote and peaceful getaway, Hinchinbrook Island delivers seclusion, beauty and the feeling of having traveled back in time to an era of primordial simplicity.
South of Cairns, the township of Port Hinchinbrook is the site of a ferry that travels to the island. The ideal time to visit Hinchinbrook Island is during the winter season, from May through October. The temperatures are balmy, with cool nights and warm, sunny days. When the monsoon season sets in during the summer months Hinchinbrook Island Ferries reduces regular ferry service to the island or even halts it entirely. The only resort on the island, the Cape Richards Resort, also closes from February to March.
To maintain its pristine state, Hinchinbrook advocates certain guidelines for camping either on its beaches or in its interior. Campers must carry in all items intended for use and then carry them out again. This includes drinking water, as the only sources on the island, rainfall or water in creeks, cannot necessarily be counted on as a steady source as these are seasonal.
Ideally campers will plan for three or four days in which they are entirely self-sufficient. This includes sources of heat by which to cook, as open fires are not permitted at any time on the island. Campers must also bring enough food and the gear required in order to enjoy their trip safely. There are no shops on the island, but the Hinchinbrook Island Wilderness Lodge does keep basic supplies on hand. While there is one resort on the island, the Richards Bay Resort, adventurous campers can simply pitch a tent or just unroll their sleeping bags and lie out under the stars.
Trek or kayak to beautiful beaches
Hinchinbrook Island is noted for its exemplary beaches, of which there are several. Most are best accessed by the sea, but a few of them can be reached by following trails such as the Thorsborne Trail. The most popular beach, Ramsay Beach, is a gorgeous expanse of black sand that makes an excellent site for a base camp. The Hinchinbrook Island Resort is close to two very beautiful and secluded beaches, Orchid and North Shepherd beaches.
Travel around the island is best accomplished by sea kayak; however, there is a trail that follows the coastline of the island, known as the Thorsborne Trail, which requires a permit in order to trek its 32-kilometre length. Because the number of hikers is limited at any given time, reservations made months in advance are the best way to ensure a place on the trail when travellers wish to visit. Any trekkers wishing to climb the heights of Mt. Bowen must register separately for a permit to hike that trail.
For misty volcanic peaks, lush mangrove swamps filled with saltwater crocs, kilometres of isolated beaches and the opportunity to view some of the most beautiful expanses of scenery in Australia, Hinchinbrook Island makes the perfect camping adventure.
Many thanks for this article brought to you by Ray’s Outdoors – the Australian company, the specialists in camping holidays and providing campers with all the equipment they need.
Photo credits: Hinchbrook Islan by Tourism Old and Australian Tourist Commission
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It was the end of the summer as we drove down to Devon, stopping at Okehampton station for lunch in the station buffet that could have been a film set for that post-war classic, Brief Encounter. The station has been restored to its full 1950s glory, with old fashioned locomotives to take you on a day trip on the Dartmoor Railway that runs at weekends to Meldon, where you can walk on the viaduct or up onto the moor. It’s a lovely place to stop for lunch and you can sit at a table on the platform among the hanging baskets and piles of leather suitcases, recalling Celia Johnson’s very British clipped tones, as you tuck into your home-made Victoria Sponge with a pot of tea.
Gorge Scrambling with Adventure Okehampton
Since we had three teenage boys to entertain that weekend, who were looking for a bit more adventure than a bacon buttie, we booked in with Adventure Okehampton who operate cycle hire and outdoor activities on Dartmoor from the Okehampton YHA hostel on the other side of the railway bridge. My son and his two friends met up with their group in the hostel, were kitted out with wetsuits and helmets and whisked off in a mini-bus with us in hot pursuit in the car. As they gathered outside the makeshift changing rooms in a shed on the moor, the fit looking instructors, John and Amy laid down a few rules. “Don’t jump in unless one of the instructors tells you it’s safe and follow the path – if you’re told to go a certain way, it’s for a good reason”.
I hope you enjoy the video below about our weekend on Dartmoor with Woodovis Park
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They helmets were double checked, the life jackets fastened and the group was off, scrambling down the bank and into the river. There were several families there, but Guy and I opted to watch from the bank, as the group waded up the river, jumping and splashing in the pools which became progressively deeper as they climbed higher. The boys bobbed around like seals and it really looked like such fun that I was almost tempted to join them, but I’m afraid it takes tropical heat to convince me to jump into an icy mountain stream, even with a wetsuit on. After a couple of hours of exhausting good fun, the boys were returned to us and we warmed them up with a hot drink and a few chocolate bars, then headed on to Woodovis Park, near Tavistock, where we were spending the weekend.
We had chosen to stay in a mobile home for the holiday weekend, as although my husband Guy loves nothing better than a night under canvas, I prefer the certainty of a roof over my head in the unpredictable English summer weather. We received a warm welcome from wardens, Julie and Leigh who were on duty in the shop and reception. Leigh walked us down the path to give us the full guided tour of our mobile home, pointing out all the features that previous damp weekends under canvas in England had made me come to value; a hot shower (no trips in the dark to the shower block), a well equipped kitchen and heaters in both the bedrooms. Even if the weather turned against us, there was no way we would be anything but snug and cosy. The table was laid out ready for tea, with a box of West Country clotted cream fudge that didn’t last long once the boys arrived and soon we had the kettle whistling on the gas stove for a nice cuppa.
Our “Super Finch” two bedroom mobile home was surprisingly roomy, with a double bedroom next to the shower room, which with the connecting door could just about count as “en suite”. Next door was the second bedroom with twin singles and as we had three boys with us, they took it in turns for one of them to sleep on the sofa bed in the sitting area. With a wardrobe in both rooms as well as cupboards over the bed, there was a surprising amount of storage and we had a TV and DVD player, gas fire and well equiped kitchen with full size oven and microwave.
The boys settled down to a competitive board game of Risk, a board game of world domination, spending the rest of the weekend plotting strategies and trying to annex each other’s countries with a ruthlessness that would have put Stalin to shame. My husband had visited Woodovis a couple of years before when he brought my daughter and a few of her friends down for some Dartmoor adventures and the good reports they came back with prompted me to book it again. A large proportion of the visitors are regulars who come back year after year, and with the safe and tranquil setting and incredibly friendly staff, we could see why this 5 star holiday park is so popular.
The owners, John and Dorothy told us how the season starts with the mobile homes filling up from March onwards and by Easter the family tents start arriving. They nearly always have a new baby camping for the first time with its parents in the springtime, and then from May onwards, the park is busy with mobile homes, caravans and larger tents. For those looking for camping without all the gear, there is a camping pod (a sort of wooden tent) or a tipi with a central stove, both of which are popular with newly-weds, especially for couples where he is trying to persuade her that camping can really be quite cosy and romantic. With hot croissants for breakfast on sale at the shop and the Copper Penny pub a brisk walk down the road, you really only need to bring your lilo and sleeping bag.
Woodovis Park has a friendly, family feel where children can wander around safely. The park is hidden down a long drive and becomes a compact, self-contained world in which the little ones can enjoy their independence with a trip to the shop to collect the fresh bread in the morning or spend their pocket money on an ice cream (just licking!). There’s a children’s playground and a games room with a pool table, air hockey and pinball machines, as well as a large map of Dartmoor on the wall and information leaflets to help you plan your days out and about. Another big attraction of Woodovis Park is the indoor swimming pool which features a jacuzzi at one end and the infra-red heat cabin where I spent most of my time warming my back on the heaters, which if you believed the signs would make me thinner as well as improving my circulation. There is wifi throughout the park for a moderate charge, and my only complaint was that it was frustratingly slow during our stay.
The Tamar Valley
The holiday park is close to the Tamar Valley, where there are a number of walking trails that take you past the old mine chimneys and other signs of mining heritage of this area. During the nineteenth century, the mines were the largest producers of copper in Europe and the ore was shipped from the quaysides that dotted the banks of the Tamar River. The Copper Penny Inn, just down the road from Woodovis Park was once known as the Chip Shop, where the local miners were paid in chips which they had to spend at the company owned Chip Shop. Just down the road is the Horn of Plenty, which was once the mine manager’s house, but is now a small luxury hotel with a gourmet reputation. Beside the Tamar Valley car park is the Tree Surfing which the boys hoped to try on our last day, but was closed due to high winds, as well as offering canoe trips along the Tamar River. We heard a tall fishing tale about one of the guests who took a Tamar canoe trip and was surprised to find a salmon leaping into his canoe; with swift thinking he knocked it over the head with his thermos flask and brought it home to eat for supper.
Walking on Dartmoor above Peter Tavy
The next day we made the most of the good weather with a walk on the moor, meeting up with some friends in the church car park at the village of Peter Tavy. The path took us up gently up the hillside, passing one of the granite tors on our left. As we neared the high ground, out of nowhere a quad bike appeared, startling us as it veered across our path. I assumed that it was another outdoor activity but soon realised that it was a farmer at work on the moor. From one direction came a flock of sheep with their fleeces stained in luminous colours, while from the other a herd of cattle was being rounded up by three agile sheep dogs and two quad bikes.
We continued along the ridge, playing hop-scotch on the stones over a rushing stream and descended a little until we reached a viewpoint where we could see down into the valley with the church spire of Peter Tavy in the distance. We stood for while with the wind in our hair, feeling on top of the world and then set a steady pace downhill across the turf dotted with yellow dandelions. Further down the path led us through waist high ferns with brambles that plucked at our clothes, then entered a wood of bent oaks, where the stream came rushing down the valley. “We won’t get lost?” asked the boys anxiously, but with our lunch at stake there was little chance of that. All the best walks on Dartmoor end with a good pub lunch and before long we were down by the church again and stepping into the Peter Tavy Inn.
Lunch at Peter Tavy Inn
It was the holiday weekend, but fortunately our friends had booked a table, as when as we walked in the place was absolutely packed. The inn was just what you might hope for in a country pub, with open fires, flagstone floors, good ale and smoke-blackened beams to knock your head on. The menu was chalked up on a blackboard featuring plenty of reasonably priced good pub grub. After a hearty roast lunch we were almost too full for puddings but were tempted by the plate of six Devon cheeses with names like Ticklemore Goat and Sharpham Brie, with little flags to tell you which farm they had come from.
The wet weather programme on Dartmoor
The next day, the changeable Dartmoor weather had set in with high winds and showers. We started the morning slowly, hoping that the rain would blow over, but then set forth from Woodovis Park, determined to find something that we could fit into our wet weather programme. Plan A was to try to the Tree Surfers down the road, where we hoped that the tree canopy would shield us from rain and the rope courses would keep our boys entertained, but when we got there we found it closed due to high winds. Undeterred we moved on to Plan B and drove on to the climbing barn at Milton Abbott which looked like fun, but the wait was rather long for an instructor to work with the boys who were all beginners. On to Place C then and with the boys kitted out with their waterproofs we drove past Princetown to Combestone Tor, one of the few where you can park very close to the tor. We skipped out of the car, with the wind whistling in our ears and the rain pouring down, for a quick run around the tor and scramble up on top, while peering into the mist in hope of a view.
Safely back in the car with the windows steaming up, we spotted a group of wet and miserable teenage walkers from a West Country school who were clearly doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award, in which they hike and camp in groups across Dartmoor. It prompted Guy to tell us stories of the Ten Tors exercise in 2007 when he was part of the army team looking after the safety of the event that is an outdoor challenge for schools in the West of England. For the first time ever, the weather was so bad and the rivers so swollen that 2400 teenagers had to be evacuated from the moor on foot and by helicopter and fortunately all were recovered safely. “Was the weather just like this?” I asked, watching the rain lash down on the windscreen – ” No, it was nowhere near as nice as this” Guy replied. After that, there was no Plan D except to return to our cosy mobile home at Woodovis to continue the empire building with the game of Risk.
The Dartmoor Tors and the letter boxes
On our last morning, we were headed back to Bristol, but the weather had brightened and we were determined to get up to another of the granite tors We stopped en route across the moor and walked up towards Great Staple Tor. Scrambling up on the granite tors we got a real sense of the wildness of Dartmoor and we even found a “letter box” - not the kind that you actually post letters into but the Dartmoor variety. These are a small plastic box or metal container that are hidden on the moor in the nooks and crannies of the tors, for letter box hunters to seek out and find. When you discover one, you normally find it contains a small book to write your name and a rubber stamp which you can stamp a book of your own to prove you were there, bringing out the collector in you. Our walk completed and a couple of hours later and we were back in Bristol which all seemed rather tame compared to our wet and wild weekend on Dartmoor.
Visitor Information for Dartmoor
Woodovis Park – Our base for our adventures on Dartmoor. Check their Facebook Page. This 5 star holiday park has won many awards and you’ll find mobile homes, camping pod and tipi to hire, or pitches for your tent, caravan or motor home. We highly recommend Woodovis Park as a green and tranquil base to explore Dartmoor National Park or head for the beaches of north and south Devon. The small size and friendly atmosphere makes the park especially suitable for families and those who want a quiet, rural break. A two bedroom “Super Finch” mobile home like ours would cost from £269 per week in low season to £659 per week in high season and is also available for short breaks. Our thanks to Woodovis Park for hosting our stay at a reduced rate.
Dartmoor Railway – operate a Heritage train service at weekends from Meldon via Okehampton to Sampford Courtnay. There is parking at the station and the station buffet is open to everyone for snacks, lights meals and teatime cakes. There’s also a small railway museum.
Adventure Okehampton – Offer adventure activities and holidays on Dartmoor. They are based at the YHA hostel Okehampton, beside Okehampton station and offer cycle hire as well as a wide range of outdoor activities such as kayaking, abseiling, raft building. The Gorge Scrambling that the boys tried cost £30 per person for a 2-3 hour session including transport, equipment and instruction.
Tamar Valley - Offers the Tamar walking trails beside the Tamar river where you can still see the old mining chimneys and buildings – this is where copper and arsenic were mined in the nineteenth century.
The Barn Indoor Climbing Wall at Milton Abbot – An indoor climbing barn with a range of different climbing courses where you can hire equipment and get instruction
Peter Tavy Inn – an old country inn in the village of Peter Tavy on the edge of Dartmoor with excellent pub food and real ales
Dartmoor Letter Boxes – more information about the activity of letterboxing on Dartmoor
Dartmoor Tourism website – Official visitor information site for Dartmoor with all the things to see and do
More fun in Devon and Cornwall
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White sand beaches, sheep and Maori culture – a motorhome adventure through North Island, New Zealand
In this Guest Post, Allison MacLaughlan shares her journey through the North Island of New Zealand by motorhome in which she found stunning white sand beaches, dipped into Maori culture, passed thousands of sheep and kayaked in the waters of the Tasman Sea.
This past winter my partner and I set off for the amazing adventure of traveling through New Zealand. The plan was to do two weeks on the North Island and then two weeks on the South Island. After much research, we decided to explore the whole North Island by motorhome.
Starting our Motorhome adventure
Both of us love to travel but neither one of us had ever driven or gone anywhere in a motorhome. The idea sounded convenient and fun. So we did our research, chose the motorhome we wanted to rent and flew off for the adventure of a lifetime. We met up with the owners of our big 2-bed motorhome at a large parking lot close to the Auckland airport. We loaded in our stuff, got comfortable, pulled out our maps and headed out for the open road.
As we navigated our way down the busy Auckland highway we realized that driving our new camper was going to be a bit of an adjustment. For one we were driving on the opposite side of the road than we were used to and for another this motorhome was big! In fact it seemed far larger in person than it did on the website and the streets felt very narrow.
In hindsite taking our first drive in rush hour traffic was probably not the brightest move. We left the busy streets of Auckland as fast as we could.
Once we hit less populated roads we began to relax, get into the groove and enjoy the scenery. We headed first to a little town called Tutukaka on our way towards the Northern tip of the North Island. I loved the name of the town and it was to be our first stop over.
Tutukaka is a gorgeous little fishing town right on the ocean with stunning white sand beaches and a vibe that says “welcome, come chill out with us”. The holiday park bordered on a farm that had hundreds of cows who at some point during the afternoon all ventured by to take a look at our home on wheels. We walked the beach, ate some particularly good food at the Oceans Resort Hotel restaurant, had a mediocre first sleep in our motorhome and took off the next morning for more adventure.
Heading Towards Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga is at the very northwestern tip of New Zealand along the Aupouri Peninsula. It is literally 100km from the nearest town and is home to a stunning 90-mile long beach, warm sunny weather and loads of spiritual folklore. The locals quickly informed us that the native Maori of New Zealand named this cape ‘Reinga’ which means the ‘Underworld’. They believed that the cape is the point where spirits of the dead enter the underworld.
The drive to Cape Reinga took us through a lot of farmland with tons of sheep… and I mean tons of sheep. I learned that New Zealand is home to over 4 million people and over 30 million sheep! As you can probably imagine there were fields and fields of them. Eventually we arrived at a town that quickly became a favorite of ours called Paihia. Paihia is a funky little town on the ocean with lots going on. The Maori culture is very prominent which is reflected in the artwork and architecture of the buildings.
Paihia is rich in history and a fascinating stopover. It is well worth a visit to the grounds where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between various Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown.The grounds are stunning and have a sprawling view of the turquoise colored ocean. The design and architecture of the Maori treaty building are unique and beautiful. We enjoyed Paihia so much that we stayed for three nights and really took full advantage of the nice weather and abundance of sightseeing.
Later that week we finally made it up to the Northern tip of Cape Reinga. This area of New Zealand is particularly hot and we found that although the 90-mile beach was gorgeous, it was far too hot to walk on with bare feet. After removing our sandals we could not walk for more than a few seconds without scorching the soles of our feet! We took it all in, admired the beauty of our surroundings then decided to quickly move on and continue our journey.
We began to make our way back down the other side of the North Island. Driving narrow and winding mountain roads with a large motorhome was an experience I will never forget and not likely ever do again. Gorgeous scenery but a bit too nerve racking to fully enjoy it.
New Zealand Hospitality
At the end of our two-week North Island trip and after many crazy driving experiences, both my boyfriend and I decided that we would never rent a motorhome again… at least not in a place where we have to drive on the opposite side of the road. We found it to be fairly exhausting and the gas was extremely expensive. However I have to admit that it did allow us to see a lot of New Zealand that we probably would not have even realized existed had we traveled another way.
With a motorhome we found that we explored back roads, tried out different campsites and met a lot of very happy and friendly New Zealanders. We heard much about the endangered and flightless Kiwi bird – which we never once saw. We tried all kinds of interesting food, walked countless beaches, kayaked in the waters of the Tasman Sea, explored the wineries of Napier, survived the toxic smells of Rotorua and braved the crazy wind ripping rain of Wellington.
We ended the trip in what turned out to be our absolute favorite town, Mount Maunganui. This is a small surfing town in the Bay of Plenty with a little mountain at its far edge. The beach, the mountain, the great food and the surfing vibe made this place electric and I could have stayed for a month. It was the perfect place to chill for a few days before leaving the North Island.
We dropped off our motorhome back at the Auckland airport parking lot, breathed a sigh of relief and headed to our next destination… the South Island of New Zealand. It was hard to imagine topping this amazing experience but we were going to give it a try!
My thanks for this Guest Post to Allison MacLaughlan from Inflatable Kayak World who loves to take her kayak along with her on her travels to explore new destinations and waterways. You can follow Allison on Twitter @IK_World and on her Facebook Page Inflatable Kayak World
More tales from New Zealand
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