Innisfail is a prosperous, colourful town on the banks of the North and South Johnstone Rivers.
Location: 92 km south of Cairns on the Palmerston and Bruce Highways; 1631 km north of Brisbane
Established in 1977, the Australian Sugar Industry Museum is located in the sugar village of Mourilyan, just south of Innisfail, and is dedicated to Australia’s sugar heritage, from 1823 to the present day. In the Sugarama Gallery attached to the museum a changing exhibition program showcases Queensland’s social history and visual arts.
Innisfail’s Chinese Temple was known as the Joss House because of the Joss sticks burnt during worship. It is a Universal Temple honouring Buddhism, Taoism and Ancestor worship. It was built 1940 by the shire’s Chinese population who were drawn to the agricultural industry and the gold rushes of the region.
Natural features: Ella Bay National Park; Gladys Inlet; Mena Creek Environmental Park; Tully Falls; Clump Point-Kurrimine Parks; Clump Mountain National Park; Maria Creek National Park; Moresby Range National Park
Brief History: The Johnstone Rivers were first sighted by Sub-inspector Robert Johnstone who came upon the current site of the town and wrote: ‘a most glorious view appeared – a noble reach of fresh water, studded with blacks with their canoes and catamarans, others on the sandy beaches; deep blue fresh water expanding to an imposing breadth.’ Sugar has been grown here since the 1880s and its contribution to the area is celebrated with an Annual Gala Sugar Festival held every year in August. In 1881 the Colonial Sugar Refining Company entered the Queensland sugar industry, establishing mills at Mackay, the Herbert River and Johnstone River, where it built its Goondi Mill (1885). The Goondi Mill’s opening coincided with a fall in sugar prices. Fitzgerald and Co failed, but CSR’s financial strength allowed it to survive the downturn.
Innisfail has long been dependent on migrant and indentured labour, from South Sea Islanders (then known as Kanakas) in the late nineteenth century to Italians in the twentieth century. With an economy based primarily on sugar and bananas, it has often suffered massive cyclone damage, especially in 1918 and 2006. It owes its art deco buildings to the rebuilding after the 1918 cyclone. Origin of Name: in 1879 an Irishman named Thomas Henry Fitzgerald arrived in the area to take up land. Fitzgerald, an astute entrepreneur, gave his property the name Innisfail, the ancient name of Ireland, however it was not to become the name of the town until much later. In 1882 the Surveyor-General named it Geraldton in honour of Fitzgerald. The town’s name was changed after a Russian ship bound for Geraldton in Western Austraqlia arrived at the Queensland port in 1910 to collect a load of jarrah timber. A public meeting was held and the name of the town was officially changed to ‘Innisfail’, the name of Fitzgerald’s property.
Ella Bay is part of the Coastal Wet Tropics Important Bird Area. Ella Bay was originally gazetted as a national park in 1978. The park is located within the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. Ella Bay National Park adjoins unallocated state land and nature reserves that connect to Russell River National Park, Eubenangee Swamp National Park and eventually to the highlands of Wooroonooran National Park. This corridor of protected areas and State lands comprises one of the best remaining natural corridors linking the wet tropical highlands to the coastal lowlands. Ella Bay National Park can be reached via Fly Fish Point on Ella Bay Road. Adjacent to the park are camping facilities provided by the Johnstone Shire Council.
Paronella Park is a property built in the 1930s by Jose Paronella, a Spanish immigrant. Paronella built facilities, including tennis courts and a cinema and a ballroom inspired by Spanish castles, to provide entertainment for the public. In 1933, Paronella installed a hydro-electric plant, the first (privately owned) in Queensland, on the waterfall in the park. Though damaged by fire, cyclones and several floods, it has survived and remains a magical, unforgettable place nestled amongst heritage gardens in lush Australian rainforest.
The Johnstone River, one of the larger in north Queensland, enters the sea at Gladys Inlet. It has a 300 m wide entrance and tidal shoals extending up to 1 km seaward of the inlet. There are three beaches associated with the river mouth – Flying Fish Point to the north, Coconut Bay Beach in the mouth, and Conquette Point Beach forming the southern entrance. The town of Innisfail is located 5 km west of the river mouth. There is a small settlement behind the southern end of the beach, including a store and limited facilities. You can only swim on these beaches at mid to high tide because of the extensive tidal shoals and flats.
Flying Fish Point at the mouth of the Johnstone River
The area is teaming with wildlife. Out on the sandbars the soldier crabs run in great waves of blue across the sand. Migratory birds from Siberia are seen fishing on the sand-flats at the mouth of the Johnstone River prior to their flight home, pelicans often join the fishermen on the beach, and the surrounding rainforests are home to the rare cassowary. It is also not unusual to see kangaroos grzing by the shoreline of the inlet. Be careful at Coconut Bay and near the river mouth, as strong tidal currents persist and crocodiles may be about. Captain John Moresby RN named the Gladys River in 1873 after the ship’s boat of the HMS Basilisk. This boat was used by Lieutenant Sydney Smith when he travelled 10 miles up the river.
Queensland’s highest mountain (1,611 metres), Mount Bartle Frere is part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, is 15 km to the north. Climbing the summit of Queensland’s highest mountain offers a challenging way to explore part of the World Heritage-listed rainforest of the Bellenden Ker Range.
Bartle Frere trail, in Wooroonooran National Park, can be accessed from the coast at Josephine Falls or from the west via the Atherton Tableland. The trail provides opportunities for fit, experienced and well-prepared bushwalkers to access the rugged wilderness of the Bellenden Ker Range, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Four camping areas have been established along the trail and bush camping is allowed along any part of the trail.
Wooroonooran National Park offers visitors a variety of recreational opportunities. Walshs Pyramid provides a challenging hiking trail not far from Cairns, while Goldsborough Valley offers opportunities for canoeing, mountain biking, walking and camping. Josephine Falls features a cascading waterfall and the beginning of the trail up Queensland s highest peak Bartle Frere, while Palmerston (Doongan) is renowned for beautiful rainforest, wild rivers, steep gorges, cascading waterfalls and the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway.
Palmerston (Doongan), 33 km west of Innisfail, is renowned for lush rainforest, scenic views, steep gorges and cascading waterfalls, and offers opportunities for picnicking, camping and buskwalking in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The Palmerston Highway runs through the Palmerston (Doongan) section of Wooroonooran National Park. The northern side of the highway is well-developed for visitors, with easy access to the Mamu Tropical Skywalk (27km along the Palmerston Highway from the turn-off), Crawfords Lookout (a further 1km from the walkway), Gooligans picnic area (4km from the walkway) and Henrietta Creek camping area (5km from the walkway). There are two camping areas: Henrietta Creek camping area and South Johnstone camping area.
The southern side of the Palmerston Highway is part of the Misty Mountains wilderness tracks. For access to the Misty Mountains, turn south off the Palmerston Highway on to K-tree Road. This unsealed road is on the opposite side of the highway to the Tchupala and Wallicher falls walking track. South Johnstone camping area is 12.8 km along this road.
South of Millaa Millaa, the road to the coast descends the Atherton Tablelands towards the town of Innisfail. On they way is the Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walkway, a 350 metre high elevated walkway above the rainforest, at canopy level. The Mamu Skywalk allows visitors to explore the rainforest from the forest floor to the canopy, in comfort and safety. The Skywalk passes through one of the largest-remaining continuous stands of complex vine forest on basalt soils in the Wet Tropics. Enjoy close-up views of rainforest plants, insects and birds, and take in sweeping vistas. Information signs tell of the rainforest s complex web of life and the rich culture and history of the area.
Tully Gorge National Park is 35km west of Tully along the Tully Gorge Road, which is sealed and accessible by conventional vehicles. It is a pleasant drive through agricultural land before entering the rainforest of the national park. The road ends at the Kareeya hydro-power station and there is no road access to the Tully Falls (this access is via Ravenshoe). To reach the National Park from Tully, turn off the Bruce Highway onto Dean Road, 1.4 km south of Tully. Travel 46 km to the park Dean Road becomes Jarra Creek and then Cardstone roads. The camping and day-use areas are a further 7 km.
The Tully River plunges from Koombooloomba Dam through a narrow, densely forested gorge. This is one of the wettest areas in Australia and the river, which has Grade 3-4 rapids, is one of the best white water rafting spots in Australia. A national park camp ground, 43km from Tully is situated next to the Tully River and it also includes a short butterfly walk.
Alligators Nest: This picturesque picnic area with a cool fresh water swimming hole is nestled within World Heritage rainforest and is part of Tully Gorge National Park. The swimming hole is 7km from Tully and amenities include a sheltered picnic area with a barbecue, toilets and a carpark. It s a favourite spot for Tully locals. Camping is not permitted Alligators Nest is a day use only area.