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24-Days in Far Northern Qld Bird Watching

Author: Carl from Pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: November 2006

couple australia bird watching binocularsIn 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin -- 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.

This Trip Report covers the 24-days we spent in Far North Queensland -- Cairns, Daintree, Julatten, Atherton, and Mission Beach.

We saw 240 bird species based in 5 locations:

City Species Days Cairns 85 8 Daintree 125 7 Julatten 114 3 Atherton 137 4 Mission Beach 15 2 Total 240 24

The 5 areas are too far apart to bird from one central base. Moving from the outskirts of Cairns to Daintree Village to the Julatten area to Atherton to Mission Beach and back to Cairns is a good birding circuit. All the roads were good.


Cairns was somewhat of a rest break for us on our drive around Australia. We could have seen about the same number of birds in 5 days of normal birdwatching. We stayed at the Nutmeg Grove B&B in Redlynch (www.nutmeggrove.com.au/ 16.946S 145.689E). The elegant B&B is in a rain forest valley outside Cairns. We had a suite in the main house, but no kitchen. A typical BR was fresh fruit, "Pot-Luck” on toast (mushrooms, celery, onions, potatoes, ham, a little Worchester Sauce - sautéed with cream), and sweetbread with jams. Best Br of the trip!

There is a babbling-brook behind the B&B in the rainforest. Sometimes it is hard to see the birds for the butterflies and dragonflies flitting about. However, we did see a Magnificent Riflebird -- a large dark bird with a very large hooked beak and iridescent blues & greens on the throat. You can usually hear a Wompoo Fruit-Dove's penetrating Wom-Poo, Wom-Poo, Wom-Poo, …

Daintree Village -- We stayed 7-nights in at the Red Mill House (www.redmillhouse.com.au 16.250S 145.320E). This was about the right amount of time, especially considering there are three birding boat tours available in the area. We had a comfortable room but no kitchen. Fortunately, there are good restaurants nearby.

Julatten - We stayed 2 nights at the Julatten Kingfisher Park (http://www.birdwatchers.com.au/ 16.595S 145.339E). The Kingfisher Park motel units were very large and well furnished with a good kitchen - we didn't realize they had such a good kitchen in the motel units when we were making our plans. We should have planned to stay here a week.

Atherton - We stayed 4 nights at Chamber's Rainforest Lodge (http://rainforest-australia.com/Accommodation.htm 17.286S 145.636E) in a one bed-room unit with a kitchen. A guide here told me if he didn't see a 100 species a day it was a bad day. Our best day here was 72 species (but we didn't recognize most of the bird calls).

Mission Beach - We stayed 2 nights at the Mission Beach Sanctuary Resort (www.sanctuaryatmission.com 17.823S 146.098E). We had a small room with a magnificent view of the Rainforest canopy and blue Pacific - great place to "chill-out'. We only stayed 2 nights because we knew the area was still recovering from a Category V Cyclone in March 2006. We still saw one new bird for our trip.

The Sanctuary is a 50-acre wildlife reserve. The car park (17.823S 146.102E) is 600m (1800 ft) from the lodge. You call from the car park and they come in a Land Cruiser to get you. The floors throughout the Sanctuary are soft rainforest hardwoods, so you can't wear shoes in the rooms or dining room -- bare feet are OK. The Sanctuary has a great restaurant on the premises.

NOTE: If you put the Lat. Long. into Google Earth you can see the locations. Typically, there are lots of pictures.

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Go to the Cooktown area via the Peninsula Highway (16.535S 145.139E) for 4 nights. Stay on a live-aboard dive boat for 4 to 7 nights to see the Great Barrier Reef.

Spend a week in Cairns (Redlynch), Daintree Village, Julatten and Atherton.

Stay in Mission Beach for 3 nights.

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