Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published August 28th 2015
Busland and beach steeped in history
Discover the secrets of Cape Pallarenda. This conservation park is more than bush and sandy beach. It is steeped in a history of immigration and war. The Quarantine Museum tells a tale dating back to 1915 and WWII relics show us we were not as isolated as we might have thought. Our trip to the park is so much more than expected.
Quarantine Museum First stop is a visit to the Quarantine Museum. In 1915 the Quarantine Station was moved from Magnetic Island to Cape Pallarenda. The building that houses the steam disinfector has been turned into a two room museum. The disinfector is still in place and is of significant size.
Information on glass boards details the history of the station. We read with some disgust how Asiatic and black people passing through were only allocated stretchers to sleep on, the sheets and blankets reserved for others.
The Quarantine Station continued to operate until 1973. The only fatalities recorded in 58 years were 13 Vietnamese deck passengers who succumbed to meningitis in 1920. During WWII the area was used by the Australian and American armies and the Quarantine Station was used as a hospital.
Walking Trails Walking and cycling trails lead through woodland and vine thickets up the hill or to the beach. An information board maps the trails and categorizes them by fitness level. It is a hot day so we choose the short track to the beach.
Other trails lead to the remains of a jetty destroyed by a 1971 cyclone and an abandoned WWII gun emplacement. Beyond that Graves Circuit crosses a weir built for the Quarantine Station in 1925 and passes the 1920 graves of the Vietnamese patients, before returning to the carpark.
The WWII gun emplacement on the Cape Pallarenda headland.
We cross a wooden bridge over a creek and on looking down see a strange fish that appears to be sunning itself on a rock. It is a mudskipper, an amphibian. Under some trees we hear rustling and spot an Australian brush turkey. It is the first of several we come across. Brahminy kites and white-bellied sea eagles are commonly seen soaring above the peaks here and wallabies frequent the woodland.
Pallarenda Beach The track opens to an expansive beach with views back to the city of Townsville, Castle Hill and Magnetic Island. Vines with purple and pink hibiscus like flowers, stretch out from the scrub and in places seem to sprout from the sand.
Townsville and Castle Hill viewed from Pallerenda Beach
Washed up amongst the debris of shells and seaweed we find cuttlefish and corals, fruits and nuts including a coconut, and some rocks and stones. We see a number of snail shells with rainbow colours and one that is a soft peach colour. Some of the washed up shells have been fused together. There is an elongated, pinkish, curly shell with a ribbed pattern and of course a wide variety of flat shells. We leave them where they are, this is a marine conservation park.
This is a quiet beach. In the couple of hours we visit a single speed boat goes by in the distance. A lone fisherman arrives and sets up for the afternoon. A young couple sunbathe on the sand.
Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park and Quarantine Museum is at the end of Cape Pallarenda Road, Pallarenda, about 10kms from the Townsville CBD. The park is open 6.30am to 6.30pm daily and the museum, 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday. Entry to the park and the museum is free. There is a car park, a picnic ground with tables and a BBQ and there are public toilets. For further information go to the Queensland Department of National Parks website or ring on 1300 656 191.