Cowie Beach a hid­den jewel

With Mike D’Arcy

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Pic­ture: MIKE D’ARCY

GEM: Cowie Beach . . . un­for­get­table

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