TAG Rail Trails Trip Summary

The following correspondence was received from one of our guests who joined a TAG North Queensland Rail Trails tour in August. It is an interesting perspective from a retired gentleman who was formerly a locomotive driver;

TAG Rail Trails Trip“My initial communication with TAG convener & guide Peter Tuck was very simple. Peter described what he had to offer and I explained what our interest was. From this Peter designed a four day mountain bike ride that turned out to be immensely enjoyable and rewarding.

Our first day’s ride was on the Stannary Hills road and the Stannary Hills Tramway. All points of interest were explained to us by Peter in an easy to understand oratory. All of our meals were prepared by Peter’s wife Trixie and the meals were planned around good healthy food, exactly what was required for four days of bike riding. The Stannary Hills road was mostly gentle hills with long downhill runs surrounded by virgin bush; we enjoyed riding every meter of it. Riding the Stannary Hills Tramway formation was both exciting and astounding. We couldn’t believe how those early builders constructed this track through such challenging country, especially through Eureka Creek Gorge. All in all this was a great introduction for what was in store over the following days.

TAG Rail Trails TripThe bike ride for day two was along the Silver Valley road. The extended down-hill runs, beautiful bush scenery complimented by attractive mountains and hills, the remains of old tin mining activity, sharing conversation with Main road workers, admiring old aboriginal rock art and lunch on the bank of beautiful Wild River made this ride one to remember for us and one we didn’t want to end. However, like all good things it had to end but what a way to end, a gentle ride to Woodleigh Station Homestead paddock on the bank of the Wild River. The enticing water holes in the River extended an invitation that we couldn’t resist so it was a refreshing swim before our evening meal. Our evening meal was a tasty kangaroo stew with vegetables and billy tea while sitting comfortably around a friendly camp fire. When the fire burnt through, Trixie cooked a damper in the coals to be consumed the following day.

On day three we looked for and found the remains of the rail bridge over Return Creek at Mt Garnet. The bike ride for day two began on the outskirts of Mt Garnett. The first section was particularly enjoyable as it wasn’t part of the actual four wheel drive rail trail as advertised. On this well-constructed rail formation we came across all types of rail infrastructure as well as pieces of ore that had fallen off wagons and lumps of coal that would have fallen off coal hoppers and steam locomotives, this coal would have originated in Mt Mulligan.

TAG Rail Trails TripThis initial ride was followed by a bus ride to the top of the Lappa Range where our bikes were unloaded to begin the ride to Lappa Junction on the Cairns to Forsayth Rail Corridor which initially was the main attraction for our interest in this particular tour. We weren’t disappointed, mile after mile of downhill riding surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, views for as far as we could see and most of it covered in virgin bush. Plenty of curved cuttings, drop offs, remains of bridges and very attractive stone pitched culverts constructed by expert stone masons makes this corridor an excellent one for riding on.

From Lappa Junction we travelled by bus to our camp-site on Emu Creek right next to a huge rock monolith populated by rock wallabies. A swim in Emu creek followed by our evening meal around the camp-fire was accompanied by friendly conversation followed by a good night’s sleep.

Before departure the next day we viewed the antics of a Giant Bower Bird in his bower. All in all, it was another great choice for a camp-site.

On our final day we returned to Lappa Junction to board the Savannahlander for a railmotor ride to Boonmoo. We encountered more captivating scenery during this rail trip, especially as we wound our way along Death- Adder Gorge. Boonmoo as mentioned earlier was the terminating station for the Stannary Hills Tramway. We had lunch on arrival there and then made our way by bus for the start of our bike ride over the section of tramway we couldn’t complete on day one. Once again we were struck by the ingenuity of those early builders as we encountered old bridge remains, sleepers, dog spikes, telephone poles, ore bins, cuttings, two to three chain curves and surrounded the whole time by bush scenery along the picturesque Eureka Creek. We returned to Yungaburra a lot of the time in silence contemplating what our TAG hosts had revealed to us over the four days. We loved what we had achieved during this time period and we both agreed that if the opportunity ever presented itself again, we most definitely would return for another dose of this district under the professional guidance and care of the good people from TAG.”


A group of 5 kayakers enjoyed on an early season recce to the Barnard Islands over the weekend of 20 – 21 April.

We set off from Cowley Beach and were lucky to have had light SE winds as we paddled the 7km to Stephens Island in the South Barnard group for a quick lunch.

We are always impressed with the huge turtles on the south eastern side of Sisters Island and the rays and fish in the shallow coral flats between Stephens and Sisters Islands. After a quick break we headed north east to Kent Island and
this was a pleasant 7.5km paddle in light following winds. We appreciatedWe appreciated  having this quiet coral fringed camp-site to ourselves as we set up camp. having this quiet coral fringed camp-site to ourselves as we set up camp and had a brew before heading out to explore the adjoining islands as the sun coloured the western sky.

Sunday morning had the group packed and away by 8.30 am and we traced a gentle path, island hopping between the 4 other islands that make up the superb chain of the North Barnards.

After about 7 km of paddling we landed at the crescent shaped Browns Beach for lunch under a shady Beach Calophyllum before threading our way south along the deserted coastline over 8km back to Cowley Beach.

If you would like to experience this pristine island group in a kayak call Peter on 0448517979 and we will happily take you there! Go here for details.

Curri Curri Dreaming

Misty Sunday morning waters viewed from an open tent fly, an Azure Kingfisher catches our attention low on the water as an Osprey pair tend a nest in a dead dry tree against a hazy blue sky  – this is Curri Curri Dreaming…

This little known gem is situated on the eastern bank of Lake Tinaroo within an hour and a half’s paddling north of Tinaburra Peninsula and a half an hour east from Tinaroo Village. The 5 discreetly positioned bush camps are only accessible by water craft and offer no facilities apart from seclusion, tranquillity, a superb ambiance, birdlife…..  and a fire ring for open wood fires! Visited by only those who seek out the simple pleasures of bush camping and occasional school groups, the sites are easily accessed by kayak, canoe and non powered watercraft but remember to take a hammock, good book and victuals – you will not be disappointed!!

More information including location maps, bookings etc. can be obtained off the DERM site.

Tinaroo reflectionsMisty morning watersseclusion, tranquillity, a superb ambiancediscreetly positioned bush camps a fire ring for open wood firesCurri Curri Dreaming


We were looking for a 40km loop in the dry back country close to the Tablelands and having heard about Stannary Hills a group of cyclists decided to check it out last weekend; what a find!! Less than an hour west lies a multitude of back road biking opportunities in a remote outback type environment defined by Australiana mining camps and history which reveals the story of the pioneers of this country.

We started the ride at Watsonville – the settlement with the windmill in the middle of the road!!, and headed toward Irvinebank before turning off onto the well marked Stannary Hills Road. We were pleasantly surprised at the good condition of the gravel road as it had recently been graded and rolled making for a firm, level surface. The countryside has never looked better after one of the best rainfall seasons on record; creeks were running strongly and herbage and trees were a flourishing verdant green.

About 6km along Stannary Hills Road we took a right and headed north through beautiful rolling hills, perfect for cycling. The support bus was waiting for us at Stannary Hills Pioneer Cemetery and we had a walk through the small enclosure and quickly appreciated the sacrifices made by the hardy early settlers. After a welcome smoko we continued north to the site of the former Stannary Hills mining settlement which sits on top of a knoll and offers excellent views of the surrounding ranges.

After tin was discovered in the region in the 1880’s Stannary Hills developed into a sizable township expanding to 725 souls by 1906. Records show that at its peak there were 8 hotels, a number of stores, a hospital, two butchers, two bakers and a teacher.

In 1902 a two foot gauge tramway was built from Stannary Hills to the Cairns-Chillagoe railway, following the Eureka Creek valley and joining the railway at Boonmoo to the north. The tramway lowered the costs of transporting tin out of Stannary Hills and in 1907 it was extended south to Irvinebank’s tin mines, making Stannary Hills and Irvinebank a major base-metal region.Ref; Centre for the Government of Queensland, 2011.

Today most of this former infrastructure has disappeared and a few stone middens, mining overburden and artefacts are all that remain of the township.

We heard that parts of the former railway alignment are accessible and that one can get from Stannary to Dimbulah via Boonmoo but that’s another day and perhaps another story.

We backtracked to Stannary Hills Road and enjoyed the freedom of a wide, gently undulating road under a brilliant blue sky before reaching Montalbion on the Irvinebank to Petford Road. An easy 6 km had us back in Irvinebank for a snack and drink by 12.30am.

A most enjoyable day with excellent cycling, beautiful fauna and abundant opportunities to appreciate our history.


Kahlpahlim Rock Hike

Davies Creek Falls in full spateWhat a beautiful hike this is!

We decided to get ‘out and about’ in late March and Dinden National Park in the Lamb Ranges was our destination – it always seems sunnier over that way at this time of the year. We had an early start and had time to view the impressive Davies Creek Falls which were running strongly after the heavy mid season rains. We chose the circuit route hike via the Ridge Trail which starts at about 750m on Davies Creek Road in open eucalypt forest and then rises on a former logging trail through beautiful Rose Gum forest.

We were fortunate to come across a superb 3.5metre Amethystine Python lying dead still in the middle of the track and were able to get close enough to take photographs before he moved off silently into the undergrowth – a good luck omen perhaps? We continued on through mixed forest including beautiful purple Kauri Pines before entering Casuarina and Banksia forest and a small patch of dense rainforest just before reaching Kahlpahlim Rock which lies at about 1,250m.

The rock itself is a huge feature and is visible on clear days from both the west near Mareeba and from south of Cairns. A rocky platform around and up a short distance on the eastern side normally affords excellent views, however on this day we had glimpses through the cloud to Lake Morris/Copperlode Dam as well as to Cairns and the Coral Sea.

Kahlphalim Rock cleft

The return trip is all downhill via a well worn snig track but be certain to turn right at the bottom of the track and cross the ‘bridge of heavy timbers’ which leads to the main car park.

It is then an easy 2km walk from the terminal point of Davies Creek Road to the put in car park. Be sure to stop for a swim in the clear and crisp Davies Creek on the way home!

Track Notes Distance – about 12.5km round trip. Allow 5 – 7 hours to do the circuit comfortably Track surface – former logging and snig tracks. Caution is required at present as the track is blocked in parts by fallen trees and debris after cyclones. Grade – moderate to quite strenuous.

Here’s a link to more info on Dinden and
Davies Creek NP

Hinchinbrook – Thorsborne Trail and Three Peaks


Hinchinbrook Island – what a diverse landscape, from verdant mangroves to sweeping palm fringed beaches fronting the Coral Sea,  pristine lowland rainforest, magnificent waterfalls and a central spine of rugged mountain peaks reaching 1,000 metres. This unique wilderness of close to 40,000 hectares lies off the East Coast of Far North Queensland within a mere 2 hours drive south of Cairns and north of Townsville.

The most popular walk by far on the island is the 32km Throsborne Trail which traverses down the eastern side of the island and affords a superb hiking experience with a diverse range of camping opportunities. The walk is usually undertaken over a period of 4 – 5 days which allows enough time to immerse oneself in the island’s character. Hiking and bush walking opportunities on the island are co-ordinated by  the Department of Environment and Resource Management, camping permits are required and  fees apply. In addition, in order to  minimise the human  impact in this outstanding wilderness, permits are issued for a maximum of 40 people on the trail at any one time and the largest group size is six.

Peter Tuck, one of TAG’s directors, was fortunate enough  to have joined a group of 5 other local bush walkers in late August to undertake a 9 day ‘Three Peaks’ Hinchinbrook experience. Our group  walked most of the Throsborne Trail as it forms the obvious, and most picturesque link between the Three Peaks. We started out from Lucinda on day 2 of the trip and were intent on summiting Mt. Straloch at 922 metres, or at least making it to the wreck of the Texas Terror, a World War 2 Liberator bomber lower down the mountain. This aircraft departed Garbutt (Townsville) Airfield on 18 December 1942 and was one of 6 aircraft heading north to New Guinea. The bomber crashed on Mt. Straloch in bad weather with the loss of  all 12 crew and passengers. The ‘easiest’ route up Mt. Straloch is via a boulder strewn creek bed  but drizzle over the previous few days made for very dangerous and slow walking on slippery rocks. As a result it was agreed that we abandon the climb at about 450 metres in order to catch the ferry out before the low tide at 3 pm. 3 days of good weather saw us hike off track and summit –  through overgrown heathland, the 955 metre Mt. Diamantina before making our way down to the superb Zoe Falls for a welcome swim and overnight camp at Zoe Bay. Our  last objective was the challenging Mt. Bowen which rises through craggy, mist shrouded foothills to 1,121m. We made our  base at Little Ramsay Bay and carried light gear up the Warrawilla Creek route to our  overnight camp at the saddle. An early start had us on the summit by 9.30 to enjoy the superb views and back at the beach camp by 5pm. A well deserved rest day and last night camp at the beautiful, deserted Nina Bay camp site  allowed us to enjoy a slow hike to the ferry take out point in the mangroves behind Ramsay Bay.

Any  group wishing to walk off the Thorsborne Trail and into the mountains will need to apply in writing to Rainforest and Reef Information Centre, Cardwell. We also recommend that you consult the DERM website at   www.derm.qld.gov.au for site specific track notes.

Main Peak Trek – Bartle Frere

At last! – a break in the gloomy weather in early July allowed us to tackle the Main Peak Trek that TAG has advertised – and what a trip it was.

The intention of this serious adventure was to confirm that it is possible to hike from the Tablelands return via the Cairns Mailman’s Track, Goldfield Track and up and over Bartle Frere – a total distance of 55 kilometers in 4 days. Jeff and I have done this trip in parts over the last few years but we intend to offer it to our more adventurous clients as a regular top rate dry season trek .

There were a group of 10 of us in all – 8 trekkers and 2 support crew. Jeff, Daniel Robinson – TAG’s professional contract guide and a friend Martin established a new route down the Cairns Track that found them at Kearney’s campground on the Mulgrave River at 4 pm. After an early night the group headed off up the Goldfield Track and there were some unexpected surprises – overnight rain had swollen the mighty Mulgrave River and Daniel had to arrange a safe crossing with the group. A short while later ‘a monster boar’ burst out of the undergrowth in alarm and the group were forced to scatter, shrieking, out of its path. The Goldfield is one of our favorites – there are opportunities for swimming and many beautiful animals and birds are evident along the track – as well as a few ‘unfriendlies’ such as black snakes and large pigs!! The weary group arrived at an attractive council run campsite where the overnight camp had been set up by the support crew. After a welcome afternoon smoko there was time for a walk and swim at the spectacular Boulders on Babinda Creek – check them out at www.cairnsattractions.com.au
A light morning drizzle greeted us early next morning as we prepared for our traverse of Bartle Frere – Queensland’s highest mountain. The route is described by Steve Waters in Wild Magazine* thus; “The elevation gain on the eastern route is over 1,500m making it one of the tallest ascents in the country. Make no mistake it is a big day out”.

The 15 km Bartle Frere Trail provides an outstanding mountain experience; the immediate locality has recorded annual rainfall in excess of 10,000mm, day temperatures average about 30C and the upper ridges can be shrouded in cloud. Conversely, clear days offer some of the best views in North Queensland, over the Coral Sea and adjoining ranges. The trail passes through 6 vegetation types including cloud forest and there are several plant and animal species, amongst them a Rhododendron, which are found only on this range. The spectacular Golden bowerbird and its huge bower have been observed on 3 of our last 4 treks – Google golden bowerbird for images.

After a hard but thankfully cool 8 hour trek from 100 m to 1,450m we reached and retreated into the small evacuation hut in white out conditions for a warm brew. Day 4 had us up early to tackle the difficult boulder field before reaching the summit and then relishing a slow downhill hike through beautiful Tableland forest to our 5 pm take out on Gourka Road.

If you would like to join TAG’s next Bartle Frere adventure check out our itinerary on the homepage.

*Wild Australia’s Wilderness Adventure Magazine. March – April 2010 edition. Prime Creative Media, South Melbourne

The Zig Zag Track

Last week Pete and I explored a new track to us, the Zig Zag Track, that took us down into the Mulgrave Valley from Gadgara forest on the Tablelands. It was a gentle undulating walk though a variety of forest types before we emerged onto the grassy hilltops overlooking the valley. The views of Bartle Frere and surrounding hills were stunnning, for as far as the eye could see the mottled green of forest soaked up the sunlight and seemed to invite us down.
Miners used this track well over 100 yrs ago. Quickly dropping in altitude, we zig-zagged down the steep slopes finding mine shafts, then rusted rail track and bogey carts and then finally at the bottom, the working site on the bank of a creek. Rusted machine parts littered the Walter Hodgkinson Mine site which was slowly being reclaimed by the forest. We immediately wanted to know more about the place.

We had a quick coffee before pressing on. The track was now largely along the contours just above the Butchers Creek and much of it had been cut into the steep slopes. It was heavily overgrown and difficult to follow. On many occassions it was almost impossible to see.

Finally we abandoned the track and crossed Butchers Creek where it joined the Mulgrave River. We were now on familiar ground and a quick walk along the banks of Mulgrave found us opposite Kearneys Camp site and at the end of a 9 hr walk.

Lappa – the Rail Trail

We went out to the Lappa last weekend – we needed another fix of the remote beauty of the land, the azure blue sky contrasted against spindly Eucalypt and red earth.

Our group met in Yungaburra and drove – with animated discussion in the rear of the van, down to Irvinebank an hour away. We kitted up and rode supported for about 38km along the Petford Road. We chose our favourite grassy campsite along Emu Creek which has good swimming holes shaded by huge old Paperbark trees.

There is a remarkable rocky pinnacle that we had seen on previous trips but never explored, it must stand about 25metres above the surrounding land and is completely isolated from all other geological features like an obelisk placed in a park. Some of us took the opportunity to have a late afternoon walk to explore it.  It overlooks a rocky bar and pools in Emu Creek. We spied two large rock wallabies basking in the evening sun as if standing sentinel over the place as we approached, but they were soon gone. The attached pictures show the lovely outlook over Emu Creek from the top.

We were up early and after a quick breakfast and by 7 am we were on the road.. Lappa Junction was a small but busy railway siding in the past but now waits patiently to serve one train – the Gulflander,  on its weekly return journey from Cairns to Forsayth. The pub appears to have remained unchanged  for 100 years – its rustic charm is beguiling and no first time visitor goes away from it unmoved.

We were on the Lappa Trail by 7.30 and Jeff drove the van about 7 km ahead and prepared a welcome smoko before turning around and driving around to Mt. Garnet for the pick up.

The Lappa Trail never disappoints and this trip took on a different dimension as we were unsupported for about 30km. We had prepared for this and were equipped with adequate water, snacks, spare tyres and tubes and an EPIRB. The countryside was as majestic as ever and the beauty of the landscape was intensified by the isolation – we saw one ute during the whole trip and the photos depict the surreal isolation of the place. We were fortunate to have had no incidents along the Track and were pleased to see Jeff with a beautifully laid out lunch in a superbly positioned site overlooking the distant ranges at the end of the pass.

We had been on the track for 6 hours and as the sun was biting we all decided it was time to call off the cycling and retreat into the shaded comfort of the van for the trip back to Yungaburra.

Another successful Lappa Trail with many more to come – come and join us!!