Painting by Lee of Orchid BeachTorres Strait Island PigeonCassowaryMe on "The Reef Venture" en route to Cardwell
Since first starting my blog back in 2006 I’ve written many stories about my time spent on magnificent Hinchinbrook Island during 1986 and 1987. The island is situated in Far North Queensland; halfway between Townsville and Cairns; off the coast from the small township of Cardwell.
Living on the island was, and still is, one of the best times of my life. I had the time of my life!
Being manager of the resort at Cape Richards on the far north-eastern point of the large island was a dream come true; one I never imagined would ever eventuate. When the position was offered to me, I grabbed it firmly with both hands.
I arrived on the island not know what to expect or what lay ahead; but I was ready for whatever passed my way. Quite a few surprises waited across the ocean and around the bend! I’d never set foot on the island before the afternoon of the beginning of my new adventure; but the moment I stepped off the boat a wide smile broke across my face. I had arrived home; I had no qualms.
Five years earlier, my then husband and I went on a caravan trip from Noosa north to Port Douglas. As we drove along the highway we passed by Hinchinbrook Island to the east on our trip north; and then again on our return trip south. One can't help but feel awe when Hinchinbrook comes into view.
I knew very little about the island other than it was a huge island wilderness. An island of mountain peaks; Queensland’s third highest mountain, Mount Bowen towers tall; proudly keeping watch like a humourless centurion; the guardian of all creatures and vegetation below its rugged outcrops. Hinchinbrook Island is 245 square miles in size. It’s part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and is protected by National Parks and Wildlife Service, Queensland. It has a diverse range of mangroves; 31 or more varieties in total. Some say the mangrove-fringed waterways meandering through the island into Missionary Bay are akin to those of the Amazon Delta.
During my tenure on the island, our advertising campaign boasted – “Population 30 – a million miles from everywhere…the only footprints you’ll find on the beach will be your own.”
At that time I was an island resident there were 15 cabins for holidaymakers. The cabins, in reality, could house, at most, four people at any given time. Meaning, of course, the advertised “population 30” didn’t ring true at all times; but on the whole, the resort was a couple’s paradise, so we weren't often too far off the mark!
I had a staff of 12; at times the number rose to 15. The staff had their own separate rooms and bathroom facilities in a two-storey building about 500 or so metres away from the restaurant building; and well away from the tourists’ accommodation, and from where I resided.
My little abode sat just below the high point of the cape; at the start of the short track up to hill-top at Cape Richards. I had a view of the ocean from two sides. Mine house was like a small studio apartment. Downstairs was a rumpus-lounge-type area with a spiral staircase leading to the upstairs, which was open plan except, of course, for the bathroom/toilet. I had a kitchenette, but no stove. All my meals were catered for over at the restaurant.
My very airy and naturally-lit bedroom opened up onto a deck; my view from the top level of my little house looked out towards Garden and Goold Islands to the north east and to the resort's main beach, Orchid Beach on the opposite side. Both Garden and Goold Islands aren’t very far across from Cape Richards.
Goold Island lies just north of Hinchinbrook Island, 4.6 km from Cape Richards, and 16.5 km from the mainland town of Cardwell. Garden Island sits close-by Goold...just a few over-arm, freestyle strokes away!
Goold Island falls under the jurisdiction of National Parks; and the smaller Garden Island is in the care of the local council, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council. The CCRC was formed in 2008 by the amalgamation of the Cardwell and Johnstone Shires. The name derives from the beautiful, endangered, flightless cassowary that roams the Cardwell and Mission Beach areas. Sadly, these days their numbers are dwindling.
The Brook Islands lie about 8 kms (5 miles, give or take) north-east of Cape Richards; about 30 kms (a little over 18 miles) from the mainland town of Cardwell. Late summer afternoons my staff, me and guests, as well, would gain much pleasure from watching the pied Imperial Pigeons aka Nutmeg Pigeons, also known as the Torres Strait Pigeon, wend their way home to their nests on the Brook Isles. The Nutmeg Pigeons are beautiful birds. They almost became extinct in the early 1900s. If it hadn’t been for the dedication of author/naturalist Edmund Banfield there would be none of the magnificent birds around today.
Banfield wrote “Confessions of a Beachcomber”. It is a brilliant read; and if you can get your hands on it, I’m sure you will agree. Edmund Banfield and his wife escaped mainland living for a better existence on Dunk Island.
Quote: “Banfield had experience with newspapers in Melbourne and Sydney in the 1870s. In 1882 went to Townsville, Queensland where he became sub-editor of the “Townsville Bulletin” In 1884 he visited England. The voyage provided the material for a pamphlet, “The Torres Strait Route from Queensland to England (1885)”.
While in England, Banfield met his future wife. They married in Townsville in 1886. Banfield remained at the “Townsville Bulletin” until 1897 until he resigned, being diagnosed with tuberculosis, and in a state of nervous collapse. Banfield and his deaf wife then settled on Dunk Island off the North Queensland coast. With his health improving, he obtained a 30-year lease of 129 ha (320 acres) of land on Dunk Island on 4 January 1900; and lived 23 more years of a comparatively solitary life. A house was constructed, fruit-trees and vegetables were planted; goats and cattle provided them with milk, butter and occasionally meat, and there were abundant fish in the surrounding seas.
Most importantly there were the immense possibilities of the nature study which made up so much of the charm of his books. For nine months in 1901, Banfield took the place of a former colleague at Townsville who was travelling abroad. Except for occasional short holidays on the mainland, he spent the rest of his days on Dunk Island. In 1907 he wrote a tourists' guide for the Queensland government, “Within the Barrier”; and in 1908 appeared his “Confessions of a Beachcomber”, which immediately gave him a place of his own among Australian writers. This was followed by “My Tropic Isle” (1911); and “Tropic Days “(1918). His “Last Leaves from Dunk Island } was published posthumously in 1925. Banfield passed away in 1923”. End Quote
Bob, the skipper of “The Reef Venture”, the powered, twin-hull catamaran that brought provisions across to the resort from Cardwell, along with those guests who didn’t arrive by sea plane, not only carried out the duties prescribed, but he also took my island guests out for day trips to other areas on Hinchinbrook…such as Ramsay Bay, Zoe Falls, Shepherd’s Bay; across to Garden and Goold Islands and to the Brook Island. Picnic lunches were packed for the visitors and off they’d go on their merry ways.
The majority of my island guests were wonderful people; from all walks of life and from various countries throughout the world, as well as from other parts of Australia.
For instance, John Nettles of “Bergerac” and “Midsomer Murders” fame was a guest at the resort for a week back in 1986. He was just as nice in person as he appeared in the role of “Tom Barnaby”.
Of course, like everything else and everywhere else in life, I had a couple of guests whom I would have preferred had gone elsewhere for their holidays; but, I guess, they livened up the place and made for a bit of fun – our fun – the staff and me, that is!
One arrogant fellow, a guest in his late to early thirties who had a false belief in his own importance and knowledge caused a furore one afternoon and night.
Bob, the skipper of "The Reef Venture" had arrived back from an all-day trip to the Brook Island. It was around 4 pm. Bob immediately told me that he had spotted the wayward guest described above halfway out in the ocean on his way to the Brook Island on the resort’s little single-sailor sailing craft, smaller than a Hobie Cat!
I’d laid down strict instructions to all and sundry, guests included, that the tiny craft not leave the immediate vicinity of the resort beach…Orchid Beach; that in no way, under no circumstances was it to be taken further than whatever the designated demarcation line was.
When Bob spotted the island’s little sailing vessel, he, Bob, pulled up close to the errant sailor asking if he wanted to tie the craft to “The Reef Venture”, and for the fellow to jump aboard to be taken back to the resort. The guest declined firmly, saying he was okay and didn’t need a lift. Bob was on a fairly tight time schedule that afternoon, because of the tide movement. His offer was rebuked, so Bob went on his way, shaking his head at the wonder, and stupidity of it all!
The sun set; darkness fell and still there was no sign of the escapee!
Finally, I asked Ted, my head maintenance man, who was also a keen and proficient boatman to take the island’s boat, a 16ft Abalone (similar to the one pictured above) to go in search of the missing guest. Another male member of my staff accompanied Ted on the trip. I didn't want Ted to go out alone. He only had a large torch as a guiding light. I was very reluctant to letting any of my staff go in search of the idiot.
By that stage I was fuming that he dared be so reckless. I was more concerned about the welfare of my staff than the thoughtless guest!
Finally, when he was rescued and brought back to the island by Ted around 9 pm, I let my feelings be felt; and I didn’t hold back. I was furious. The fellow was left in no doubt whatsoever what my thoughts on the matter were! He went off very meekly with his tail between his legs back up to his cabin.
For the rest of his stay, we heard barely a squeak from him!
I wonder if he ever again went on a holiday beside the ocean; or if he ever touched a small sailing vessel, again. He’s probably working in a Call Centre somewhere, far from the ocean, Hinchinbrook Island…and me!
*** My apologies for the largeness of some of my photos displayed above!!