The small town of Mourilyan, is just 10 minutes south of Innisfail. This once bustling town has an historic Queenslander pub, and art deco theatre which is now part of the Australian Sugar Industry Museum complex.
The Sugar Museum will show you how green stalks become refined white crystals for your tea. This is an ideal all-weather option (wet day or hot days) to discover history that is a major part of this region and its cultural diversity.
Historic tractors, locomotives, harvesters and a working model of a 500 horse power driven crushing engine are on display along with a collection of contemporary and historical photographs and artefacts related to Australia’s sugar industry. Recently an exhibit based around the historic cane barracks, which are still seen around the region, was opened.
Turn off the Bruce Highway to Mourilyan Harbour, a natural deep harbour with facilities for bulk sugar loading, molasses, live cattle and wood chipping. For locals and visitors it also offers excellent boat launching facilities, with a Coast Guard station. Also from this road is stunning Etty Bay, an ideal place for picnic, eat or to stay. Set among the Moresby Range National Park which hugs the coastline, this special beach offers safe swimming with a stinger net and surf lifesaver patrols on the weekends. It is an unspoilt holiday spot with a caravan park and general store.
The seat of local government is found in Innisfail. The Cassowary Coast Regional Council is a major employer in the region that runs from Innisfail to Cardwell. Innisfail is built where the twin rivers of the South and North Johnstone Rivers meet, these mighty rivers fall from the ancient and World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics rainforests. Stop and enjoy the waterside location of Fitzgerald Esplanade where a coffee or a stroll should be on your to do list.
Innisfail is an ideal location to base a stay, and accommodation includes motels, van parks, bed and breakfasts and backpacker hostels.
The town has a vibrant retail centre with some national stores and many smaller specialty shops, a highlight is Indigenous art gallery Jitta Art, where you might just catch a didgeridoo workshop or a new exhibition. Innisfail has a large and diverse range of Art Deco buildings, the CBD was largely rebuilt in this style following a cyclone in 1918 which destroyed much of the town. Today you can explore the buildings on The Innisfail Town Walk where you also will find The Chinese Joss House, one of only a few still in use in Queensland.
Still in town, Warrina Lakes is a 50 hectare recreational park with kilometres of walkways through open parkland, lakes, wooded areas and rainforest trails. Within the park you can visit the Bushtucker Gardens, established by the Ma:Mu traditional owners, the Bill Markwell Botanical Gardens and Anzac Grove. Ducks and geese can be seen in the lake and there is a swimming pool, barbecues, picnic tables, a playground with boccé and volleyball equipment available, or fly a kite or kick the footy in the wide open spaces.
Cross the southern bridge to follow the river down to the headland at Coquette Point, a marvellous high point to see the district, its two rivers and the coastline. Crossing the northern bridge on Flying Fish Point Road, track the north side of the river for a pretty drive to The Coconuts where the river meets the ocean, and on to Flying Fish Point where you can throw in a line from the beach. Stop here for a picnic or meal of fish and chips, or stay in the caravan park.
Innisfail’s annual Feast of the Senses celebrates the region’s produce with a market day extravaganza featuring farmers’ markets, cooking demonstrations and a celebrity cook-off. Various activities are held either side of the main event and include farm tours, a poet’s breakfast and gala dinner featuring local produce.
Following The Great Barrier Reef Way out of Innisfail over the North Johnstone River is the turnoff to the back roads of Garradunga, and the famous pub, said to be haunted. On the highway beyond the Russell River is the turnoff to Josephine Falls, a favourite waterfall among some stiff competition in The Great Green Way.
This section of Wooroonooran National Park has a short, easy walk from the car park through lush rainforest to lookouts and a popular picnic area. A great place to swim and slide down rocks, but take note of the warnings.
At the northern outskirts of Innisfail is the turnoff to the Palmerston Highway, a gateway to the Atherton Tablelands. A unique two-hour drive takes you through wonderful terrain to the top of the dividing range and the rich, fertile soils and different landscapes of the Atheron Tablelands, passing through towns such as Millaa Millaa, Ravenshoe, Malanda and Atherton.
Much of the World Heritage experiences close to Innisfail are located in the Wooroonooran National Park via the highway. The picturesque mountain highway has spectacular lookouts and walking tracks along the way through the Palmerston (Doongan) section of the Park. More than 500 rainforest tree species grow in this part of the Wet Tropics, and you can see many epiphytes such as basket ferns plus wildlife like the little musky rat-kangaroo, double-eyed fig-parrot and the endemic chowchilla.
The Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway, 27km along the Palmerston Highway, gives you a close look at the World Heritage rainforest from the ground up to the canopy. The wheelchair-accessible, elevated walkway ends with a 100-step climb to the observation tower for sweeping views of the North Johnstone River Gorge and Bellenden Ker range.
A little further on is Crawfords Lookout which also has views over the Gorge and is a start point for a difficult walk into the Gorge. Gooligans picnic area and Henrietta Creek camping area are bases to walk a number of waterfall tracks, rated easy or moderate. Walk to a choice of three falls, the highlight being Nandroya Falls. There are many swimming holes in this beautiful stretch of rainforest. From Henrietta Creek, the 130km network of Misty Mountains walking tracks are accessible.
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