View Full Version : North Queensland Birthday Bash - dialup beware!

10-09-2006, 05:36 PM
Well Melissa’s birthday was coming up, so we decided the best way to celebrate was to get away for a few days to the riding paradise of tropical far north Queensland. We used to head up this way a lot when we had sports bikes and a bit more free time, but this year we have only done about 4-5 rides together, we have been so busy with work, weddings and everything that seems to take over ones life. The plan was much like a Simpsons clip show, mostly things we’d already seen with a few new bits thrown in - leave Townsville on Wednesday and take a very scenic and new route to Cairns that took in some old favourite roads as well as some new ones, spend Thursday in Cairns itself drinking cocktails and celebrating the birthday, Friday ride up the coast, catch the ferry across the Daintree River, and ride up through the world heritage rainforest to Cape Tribulation, then ride back via the Atherton Tablelands to Townsville on Saturday. As a special birthday treat we were going to travel light and stay in top-end accommodation, which meant no dirt roads or back country camping on this ride!

We have both been looking forward to this trip, and I spent the previous weekend preparing bikes and gear in preparation for an early start. However on Monday I learned of the sudden death of a friend, and was feeling pretty low and did not get much sleep leading up to the event, and in all honesty I didn’t really feel like going…..

Day 1:
Up bright and early on the bikes with full tanks of fuel, plus a brand new set of Avon Distanzias to bed in. I was still feeling pretty depressed, so Melissa led the way while I trundled along behind. Fortunately we were blessed with spectacular weather the whole time, which was a very good thing considering that the last 3 times I have been up this way it poured with rain.

New Avon Tyres

Melissa leads the way out of home

The most frustrating thing about heading up to Cairns from Townsville is having to deal with the boring old Bruce Highway. This national highway is possibly the most boring, exasperating, moron filled road in Queensland. Anyone who has ever ridden from Townsville to Cairns will know what I mean! Just to do the straight run north takes about 3.5 to 4 hours on the main drag, however we had other plans. A 3-4 hour detour takes you to some of the best riding country in Queensland – the Atherton Tablelands! After 2.5 hours on the drone-way we headed west and into the mountains for some long awaited fun…..

Boring highway

……first up, the Palmerston highway, a reasonably fast and gently winding road that climbs up onto the plateau. As you ascend the cane farms give way to rainforest, and the road is just challenging enough to get you warmed up for the delights that await later in the day. And the beauty of doing this ride mid-week is the ranges are largely without the very unskilled and dangerous boy racer types who turn this into a racetrack of death every weekend.

Once at the top of the Palmerston, we took a scenic detour to a town called Ravenshoe, the highest town in QLD. We had both never traveled down this road before, it was rough, tight, very scenic and a whole lot of fun. Ravenshoe is Queensland’s highest town, we stopped there for a fairly spectacular hamburger for lunch.

Ravenshoe main street

After a quick stop with headed north out of the ‘hoe, along another back road to Herberton. This western tablelands area we have never spent too much time in, and it is a lot drier than the eastern side, but still exceptionally pleasant. These less used roads are just as exciting as their eastern counterparts, but with the added bonus of a lot less traffic.

From Atherton we headed west to the jewel in the crown of Queensland riding roads, the Gillies Highway. Allegedy the most winding road in Australia, with 220+ corners in 19km. A very fun ride, and in my younger days on a sports bike prior to my racing days, I used to go totally mental up and down here. Today though, I preferred to lope along at a spirited pace, quick enough to enjoy myself but slow enough to take in the view and not have to take any risks. How I never got killed or injured here, I used to get my knee down on a road bike here….

Once at the bottom of the Gillies it was half an hour of boring highway traffic into Cairns, to our accommodation at the beachfront Esplanade, right in the heart of the CBD. We leisurely unpacked our stuff, toasted a great days riding, and headed into town for some refreshments.

View of Cairns from 10th floor room

Day 2:
Happy birthday Melissa! Today was Mel’s big day and we had nothing planned except to kick around Cairns, drink cocktails and do not much…….which is precisely what we did!

Cairns city beachfront

Day 3:
Woke up feeling a little sore in the heads from the excesses of the day before, packed the bikes and headed north along the Captain Cook Highway. This is a classic bit of road, that winds along the very edge of the ocean between the mountains and the sea. Most people stop and Port Douglas and turn around and head back to Cairns, but the road continues for quite a way north until you reach the ferry where you cross the Daintree River, and head north into the Daintree Rainforest.

Captain Cook highway - the road runs RIGHT along the beach at the foot of the mountains

Clear weather and blue seas

Typical corner Captain Cook Highway - glimpses of the ocean at all times!

Daintree township - the end of the line before the ferry

The rainforest begins!

Woudn't be Australia without big stuff. Only about 3 shops in town, one of which is the big barramundi!

Not many riders come up here – and I don’t know why…. Breathtaking scenery, insanely twisty roads, good bitumen, wildlife, accommodation, this area has it all – for the cost of a $3 ferry ride! We rode for a bout 1.5 hours through the world heritage listed rainforest, and stopped at our accommodation at Cape Tribulation. Unpacked the bikes again, grabbed a refreshment, then took a short stroll down to the beach and spent the rest of the day relaxing.

Waiting for the ferry

Daintree River from ferry looking towards northern side

Alexandra Range lookout - goofing off

Looking south from deep in the Daintree Rainforest

Noah Beach camping area - canopy so thick in spots the GPS lost signal!

We "picked" a good spot to stay!

Everyone loves ice cream at the end of a long day riding!

Cape Tribulation

Melissa exploring the intertidal zone of the Coral Sea

Creek running out of rainforest onto beach

A bit closer to the Cape, the weather was good like I said!

Beach creek crossing

Bloomfield track to Cooktown, an adventure for another day...

Day 4:
Well we had to head home eventually, so we loaded up the bikes and headed back through the rainforest at a leisurely pace to the ferry. Half an hour or so later we headed west up the Rex Range, south of Mossman, in order to bypass the busy traffic of Cairns and take a northern Tablelands scenic detour. While the Rex range is a very fun road, the surface is not the best, heavily polished and corrugated from the logging trucks that frequent it. In the wet it is the worst, most treacherous bitumen I have ever ridden on. Melissa in particular doesn’t enjoy this road, however this was the first time she has had a crack at it on the KLE, and she loved it. There’s a lot to be said for a 21” front wheel on some very crap-tacular tar. Once at the top it’s a quick blast south across the savanna to the town of Mareeba, where I also come to race a lot. They have a very excellent coffee shop, so we topped up and headed back across the roads we normally take across the tablelands. The tablelands is pretty different to the rest of NQ, it is a lot more like southern Australia or even New Zealand with the high altitudes and rainfall. Eventually we popped back out onto the boring old Bruce Highway, switched our brains to autopilot and headed south to home.

On the ferry back home

Atherton Tablelands

Same shot in panorama with photostitch

KLE500 and Melissa

Back on the lowlands

I didn't want to go home so I put on a pout!

BMW looking back into the mountains


Also, for you GPS/Mapsource/Google Earth enthusiasts, the track log (in .gpx format) can be downloaded from


So that’s our little holiday, a good time was had by all. We had a few drinks, got to visit some nice places, found some new roads, took a few photos, had a day to recover before going back to work, and we got to do it all on the bikes. During this ride I have decided to take the rest of the year off racing, in order to focus on the fun stuff – touring around my local area on the DS bikes. Will keep you posted as we get out and about!

10-09-2006, 06:18 PM
Leon, Leon...
how the hell do you do it?
Another good story garnished with superb pics, a pleasure to read and gawk....over and over.
Great stuff !!
We might have to put you on a monthly retainer, mate :D

10-09-2006, 06:42 PM
i felt like i was back there
i lived at Palm Cove for 8 mths
i have been home approx 9 years
i havent been back since but i must soon
to visit trinity beach (my brother died there 2002)
my partner just looked and i explained all the places in the photos
as i have been to them all he said when do we leave
a weekly drive was to Coook Town when the guys got pickled
op along the daintree i bet that road hasnt changed as rough as guts it was and back via the koranda
they were Just finishing putting up the sky rail when i left

Thank You for the Exellent report on your trip
100% Top Marks on your report

11-09-2006, 04:49 AM
Leon, Leon...
how the hell do you do it?
Another good story garnished with superb pics, a pleasure to read and gawk....over and over.
Great stuff !!
We might have to put you on a monthly retainer, mate :D


Thanks, must get back up that way :!:

11-09-2006, 07:37 AM
Have I told you how much I hate you :P

great report, beautiful piece of the world