Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Fitzroy Island National Park, see the Great Barrier Reef, without the crowds

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Nudey Beach
Image courtesy:
Fitzroy Island - less tourists. only 45 minutes from Cairns by boat, possessing one of Australia's (largely unknown) beaches.
While boatloads head off to Green Island and pontoons further out on the Great Barrier Reef, Fitzroy Island is quiet and full of surprises. No wonder it's a National Park.
I stupidly left my camera at the hotel. The journey (by Fast Cat) is interesting as it follows the scenic, untouched Queensland coast before heading across to Fitzroy Island.
A spectacular rainforest bushwalk (one of several self-guided trails) leads you to Nudey Beach (not a nudist beach). It is only 20 minute walk from the central dock (Welcome Bay). The coral reef is only metres off the beach. There is also good snorkelling in Welcome Bay. 
If you don't swim, you can take a glass bottom boat tour or visit the turtle rehabilitation centre (organised tour only).
For bushwalkers there is a more challenging circuit trail to the summit and lighthouse (perfect for a full day visit). 
There is a resort (looked 3 star, not that flash) on the island if you want to stay longer.
I only stayed for a few hours (1:30 p.m. boat from Cairns, departing Fitzroy Island at 5 p.m.) but had enough time for lots of snorkelling (coral gardens - brain coral, staghorn, etc, clam, stingray, parrot fish) and a leisurely walk and another snorkel at Nudey Beach.

For more info:

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Where to stay in Palm Cove? Pullman Resort, The Reef House or Grand Mercure Rockford?

Trip Advisor is an invaluable resource, but some reviews are oncers. My wife and I have travelled to Far North Queensland for over 15 years. So here's my take...

If you want to be right on Williams Esplanade go for Reef House or Grand Mercure. Heaps of cafes, restaurants, free beachside barbeques.
If you want more seclusion, go for Pullman. If don't want pool noise, ask for an apartment not facing the pool (best block: rooms around Staircase 1 (North-west corner is the quietest, e.g. Rooms 107-110 some of these have plunge pools/ 208-211/ 308-311/ 408-411) or Southern Block far from large pool.
Couples who want quiet sophistication and a spot of history, go for colonial style Reef House. The complimentary evening punch and canapes in the Brigadier's Lounge is very classy.
Reef House, one of two pools

Reef House restaurant is right on the Esplanade

Deadman's Gully, adjoining beach
It's setting is perfect. Rainforest, mangroves, boardwalks, still direct beach access.
Best pool? Rockford is huge. Beautifully landscaped with century-old paperbarks.
Twilight at Rockford/Drift Apartments
Boardwalk starts at Pullman Resort and Spa

Some of these Melaleuca were there when Capt James Cook visited in 1770. 

Rainforest trail/cycle track links Clifton Beach

Town planning edict: No structure can be taller than the paperbarks

The downside about the Pullman Resort Palm Cove (Sea Temple) is that the pool area can get noisy. Kids shouting echoes around the U-shaped buildings. Listening to "Marco Polo" for an hour can be wearing. The (so-called adult) jacuzzi is usually kid-soup during the day. Photos below are on a quiet, rainy day. Apart from that it's an excellent resort.
Pullman pool area, Lagoon Bar

View from top floor apartments, ocean glimpses. Pullman Resort

In summary:
Travelling with kids - Pullman, or the more moderately priced, Grand Mercure Rockford.
No kids - The Reef House.


  • Large bottle shop behind Rockford Apartments or 5 min walk from Pullman.
  • Clifton Beach (3km) has a large supermarket (Coles).
  • Take the bus to Cairns for $5.50.
  • If you travel mid year there is little chance of stingers in the water.
  • Crocodiles? Don't push your luck, don't swim at dusk or night. But around those times, I'd be worried about sharks, also.
Tourists love this photo, plus the free bottle of vinegar placed strategically along the beaches, not for your chips but for stinger wounds.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Bodysurfing in an Australian winter, Palm Cove, Queensland

Like a washing machine, but great fun
 It's the middle of June in Palm Cove (26 km north of Cairns). Usually the water is placid, with ripples, rather than waves. But with quite strong south-easterlies, the waves (up to 1.5 metres) can get quite interesting. I never expected to be bodysurfing here but I was getting 20 metres trips into the shore. No one in the water. The water was 26 degrees Celsius. So what if it decides to rain.

The next day, waves were more moderate, but still catchable. It's more of a challenge anyway. Judging which wave to take occupies my tiny mind. I might have looked like a bit of a wally to joggers, dog walkers and tourists strolling the beach, but what the heck.

The following day, looking north to Clifton Beach.
Where are all the people?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Qantas Domestic Business Class Review MEL-CRN

The Melbourne-Cairns run still uses the aging Boeing 737-800. Cloth seats, no personal TV screens, no USB plug, no Streaming. Yes, I know Qantas are progressively refurbishing these aircraft, but this is no consolation if you have to fly on that leg.

Check out breakfast below. Poached eggs (a brave choice, as a soft poached egg can be a rare thing), kale with the texture of slime, dried up mushrooms and stodgy vegetables on the side. Yum. You used to get toast on Air New Zealand Business. Those were the days.

With dated interiors, fittings and the one way price of AUD$1040, you expect something better. No wonder most passengers are using reward points redemption, Frequent Flyer upgrades or travelling on an expense account.

Don't get me started about the number of Economy Class passengers who nip through the curtains to use the toilets up front.

Yikes! What be this?

The sign should say: "Economy Class, I'm Free"

Welcome to the 1990's 

Should Economy Class passengers use the Business Class toilets?

When my wife and I travelled 'cattle class', the forward curtain was the sacred no-go zone. Those buggers paid up at least three times the fare so they were entitled to the benefits.
Nowadays it seems anyone can quickly nip through for a call of nature. Fair enough disabled or frail passengers, if the walk to the rear toilets is too taxing (perhaps seat allocation near toilets would have been a thought, though). 
On a recent flight Qantas flight Melbourne-Cairns, there was no queue at the rear toilets but cheeky buggers, too lazy to venture down the back, barged through to the closer Business Class toilet. One dude even chatted with the galley crew while he was waiting.
Mothers with infants think their cute kid will guarantee them easy assess to all areas. I don't think so. Cabin crew look the other way for a quiet life. This has been observed on numerous flights.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Vintage James Bond - 007 novel car scenes

  1. "Dr No" 1962 - the hearse plummeting over a Jamaican cliff. Bond makes some sardonic comment (the first of many in the series) like "They were on their way to a funeral."
  2. Bond pulls up outside Government House, Kingston in a Pontiac convertible, a slumped (body in front seat). He turns to the sergeant with the throwaway line: "Make sure he doesn't get away."
  3. "Goldfinger" 1964 - Bond tailing Goldfinger (in the 30's Rolls Royce) through the Swiss alps (the 60's version of sat nav.).
  4. The DB-5 making short work of Goldfinger's Korean henchmen. I never tire of the ejector seat.
  5. In a Kentucky scrapyard, Oddjob's Lincoln Continental being compacted into a nifty cuboid.
  6. "You Only Live Twice" 1967 - A baddie-packed Toyota Crown being picked up by a helicopter with an electro-magnet, then dropped into Tokyo Bay.
  7.  "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969) Tracy (GoT's gran Diana Rigg) gatecrashes (literally) an alpine stock car race to escape Blofeld's henchmen. Bond, gobsmacked, is in the passenger seat (for once).

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A Tribute to Bill Collins ("Mr Movies") Australian TV's finest film critic

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Image: Fox Classics
He has been a part of Australian television for over five decades. Now in his eighties, Bill Collins (OAM) hosts classic movies each week on cable television (Fox Classics) after doing the same gig on free-to-air television in the 70's, 80's and 90's. His passion for movies, particularly from Hollywood's 'golden age', makes his commentaries more interesting than the actually films. 
You can tell he was a former school teacher - the way he speaks to his audience. 
"Have you read .....?"
"You really should read ....."
Collins is a bibliophile. Over the years he has amassed a huge library of novels (particularly out-of print and limited editions), movie related books and soundtracks. He assiduously researches the coming movies he will host - no Wikipedia or IMDB with this guy.
During "Intermission" Bill will wax lyrical about casting choices, camera work, costumes, musical scores (don't get him started on Erich Korngold or Max Steiner!), anecdotes and adapted screenplays vs original novels. It isn't unusual for him to have a book review interlude.
His taste in movies is eclectic. One night he hosted the confronting "Wake in Fright" (1970) back to back with sci-fi"The War of the Worlds" (1953).
Catch Bill on YouTube. There are stacks of clips from the 80's and 90's. Start off with his introduction to "Manhattan Melodrama". It'll knock your socks off.
Love Live Mr Movies. A living legend of the airwaves.

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Image: You Tube