Cowie Beach a hidden jewel
With Mike D’Arcy
SPECTACULAR, private and unforgettable. That’s Cowie Beach on the Bloomfield Track to the north of Cape Tribulation.
It’s not easy to find. Think of it as beautifully camouflaged, just like the wildlife of the rainforest. No signs, just a hidden carpark, a walk through straggly undergrowth, then – wham – a huge view with stunning layers of sky, water, reef, and sand nicely framed through the coconut trees.
Stunning blue skies merge into even bluer water; a line of brown fringing coral reef out to sea at low tide; red mangroves standing like lone sentries with their weird downwardshanging roots; occasional coral chunks; and high tide lines of pumice floated in from the mid-Pacific Ocean.
As you tread quietly out to the undergrowth to the high tide mark, you might see ghost crabs scuttling into their holes, then reappearing to carefully view the intruders.
Part of Cowie’s charm is its very shallow beach, with a 500 metre expanse at low tide. So the crab life is complex. And where there are so many crabs, there are stingrays and lots of bird species. Among them are crested terns, stilts, whimbrels, plovers, paradise kingfishers, brahminy kites, and torresian pigeons.
If you can manage your visit between the second half of the outgoing and a little of the incoming tide, you might see zillions of soldier crabs marching, feeding, retreating as you get close, digging spiral "foxholes", or milling and clicking in a circular defensive posture to fool potential predators. The crab clicking is only exceeded by the camera-clicking. The Eighth Wonder of the Natural World, perhaps?
Cowie (some people call it Stingray Bay) Beach is a tremendous part of the Wet Tropics Heritage Area, and its ecological and indigenous values are important as well as scenic. As an incredible wilderness area, visitors consistently rate it as one of their special experiences in Australia. Most can’t get over its quietness and isolation.
Frankly, it’s not for everyone. If you need crowds, then don’t think about it. If you need to swim, the water’s too shallow and it’s not a patrolled area. If you need a cafe latte, then you’ll have to bring your own. But it’s a great natural escape from the built-up areas. It will relax, energise and refresh you.
To get there, take a 4WD vehicle, travel over the Daintree River ferry ($23 return), drive through Cape Tribulation, join the gravel road, navigate the water- crossing at Emmagen Creek, and judder over the corrugations of Donovans Range (the views back to Mount Sorrow and Emmagen Valley are tremendous). It’s fun.
Your trip will take you along the iconic Bloomfield Track, which is commemorating thirty years since the Bloomfield Blockade later this month (30 November). Come up and join us then – or anytime.
GEM: Cowie Beach . . . unforgettable