How will I live without them?
A couple of friends have moved on from Brisbane in the last few weeks, and more are scheduled to leave next year. It gets you thinking about how you'll feel when it's your turn. Will you be going somewhere where the sun don't shine so warmly on so many days? Will you be able to drive off road across dry deserted landscapes or wander through ancient rainforest reaching for the sky? Or buy good-quality food that has been sourced on the same continent? Or see weird wild things? Will you be able to pop to the beach – and what a beach – when the feeling takes you on the weekend?
I will never take Australian beaches for granted. I still get a thrill when I'm approaching a new one for the first time, along an increasingly sandy path through coastal scrub, with the sound of surf getting louder. There are so many almost ten-out-of-tenners – and I haven't even visited most of them yet. If you're a person who regularly seeks solace by the shore, then you're bound to think, what on earth will I do when I haven't got beaches on my doorstep?
Where will I... get wave therapy to soothe a troubled mind, blow the cobwebs away, monitor the weather, photograph art, collect shells and other treasures, study rocks, conduct sand analysis, scan the horizon for huge and mighty creatures, talk to gulls, feel the power, and stand on one of the planet's most intriguing boundaries. In which golden temples will I worship?
Meanwhile, back in Far North Queensland, beaches like this one lie right by the Captain Cook Highway, often with no name.
And they're rarely this crowded (Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas).
Here are a few more we called in at on the drive from Daintree to Cairns. First up, Rocky Point.
And Palm Beach at Newell.
Pebbly Beach is, of course, pebbly, and the only one of its kind I've come across in Australia. Mixed in with the pebbles in one small area were hundreds of tiny delicate shells. I stalked a bird I spotted sneaking about on the rocks (there were rocks as well as pebbles, but 'Rocky' had already been used, right?). I only realised when I looked at my photographs later that in fact there were two. I think they were Wandering Tatlers.
Next up was Oak Beach. The path of totality of the solar eclipse centred on this beach, which is quite a claim to fame. There were numerous stones on this beach that were larger than pebbles. And lots of She-oaks. What I thought for one excited moment might be a Squatter Pigeon turned out to be a Bar-shouldered Dove.
Just south of Oak is Pretty Beach. It was.
And last, but not least, was Wangetti, above right.
I have been thoroughly spoilt. For the rest of time.
There is another hazard on the beaches of Far North Queensland, as well as stingers and salties. Getting hit on the head by a falling coconut would not be funny. And, by the way, they're not for harvesting.