I knew as soon as I turned the corner to Finch Hatton Gorge and saw the view we were in for a treat. The world began to turn a deeper shade of green and the mountains began to dominate the skyline.
We pulled over by the side of the road to absorb the soft lighting and take a few photos.
We continued on and the further we went into the gorge, the prettier it got. The sugar cane turned to jungle vine and the paved road to gravel road and through several creek crossings.
The girls and I squealed a little and did our best to stop and take photos along the way.
It reminded me of the Daintree – a place of untouched ancient beauty that wraps you in a warm, green embrace and gently soothes your nervous system into a state that can feel its way through the experience.
How had I not heard of Finch Hatton Gorge before, located about an hours drive from Mackay in Queensland?
Like Eungella National Park, where we had just left behind a couple of cute platypus, I was surprised and elated with what Mackay had to offer.
We parked our car, our eagerness to get out and explore delayed by my attempts to find my hat. I was sure I had packed it into the car, but it could not be found anywhere.
Luckily, we were walking into the thickly covered rainforest so I was not too concerned with having an exposed face.
We grabbed the camera gear and tripod and made our way into the forest.
The 1.6 km one way Araluen Cascades walk has a slight incline leading up to a waterfall and swimming hole. It took us a lot longer than normal as Kalyra and Savannah decided to take control of the camera equipment and take photos and direct videos of our walk through the forest.
It was so cute and I loved watching them interact with the camera and each other in this way. It gave me a chance to catch my breath and snap a few photos of them myself.
Savannah would walk past a large boulder and exclaim, “Wow, look at this rock. This is the place to take a photo.” and then directed us where to stand so she could get the perfect shot.
She did pretty good, right?
At the end of the walk is the Araluen Waterfall, gigantic granite boulders for climbing and a serene hidden water hole.
This piece of paradise is the preferred place for the locals to come and escape the Mackay heat. It would only take a one-second dip to cool down. The water was some of the coldest I’ve felt since swimming in the beaches of Cape Town.
The girls persuaded me to jump in and, of course, Savannah captured my inability to breathe on Snapchat!! They were glad that in my packing fluster, I left their swimming costumes at home.
They were content to giggle at me and climb over the boulders to explore, play and rest. (Can you believe after all these years of travel, I still suffer from packing fluster?)
If you have more time, you can walk up a further 1 km to the Wheel of Fire Waterfall, another cascade with a deep swimming pool. The walk does include a number of stairs, but the view is said to be worth it.
We were running short on time so walked back out to enjoy a relaxing lunch at Ulysses Garden Cafe by the side of the road in the rainforest.
As soon as I stepped out of the car and down the jungle path, I knew I had found the place for me. The cafe is named after the iridescent sparkling blue Ulysses butterfly which frequently flutter in between the native plants and vines and brings the same sweetness of transformative change.
Owner, Lorraine started this place a few years ago when her family set off on their road trip around Australia from Mackay. They certainly didn’t get far before discovering the property and the dilapidated building, which flashed up a vision of a cafe reflecting their passion for lifestyle choices of good, organic, home grown eating.
Almost all the ingredients used to create delicious food such pesto zucchini noodles, as mango ice cream, raw cakes, comes from locally sourced, seasonal, free range, organic and chemical free produce.
Lorraine is a big fan of farm to table and supporting local growers. The Mackay region is rich in produce and they are spoilt for choice.
We chose a table in amongst the vines, the swooping and chirping birds, and the prayer flags. The girls played chess and I slipped into the Zen mode with my cold-pressed beetroot juice.
It was only a pressing schedule and the promise of sunrise kangaroos on the beach that dragged me outta there.
On the way back out we passed the spot which first captivated our attention for a photo. There on the roadside, top side up, patiently waiting for my return was my hat!!
We pulled up to collect it adding our giggles into the suitcase of Mackay memories.
P.S. That bugger of a hat was intent on leaving me. The Rocky Mountains were just too spectacular for it to leave so it left me somewhere in Snowmass!
I travelled to Mackay in partnership with Mackay Tourism. To find more information on travel in Mackay visit their website.
Have you been to Finch Hatton Gorge, or Mackay? Please share any tips in the comments!