Terror Australis

When Dorothea Mackellar wrote her poem ‘My Country’, I wonder if she knew her daringly dichotomous description of Australia would arguably become one of the most recognisable.

My Country, second verse 

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

I love this poem even if it’s a little done to death. It’s so darn evocative. I’m not often outwardly patriotic but reading all six verses leaves me awash with pride to be an Australian. I’m almost embarrassed to say it. Actually, I am embarrassed to say it.

Dorothea wrote the poem while enduring homesickness – missing her Sydney home – during a visit to London in 1904 and it was an instant success. Her insightfulness was known the Commonwealth over. As it is today.

What a cool photograph for the time

Dorothea in her twenties, around the time she wrote ‘My Country’

Now, I’m not sure how much of Australia’s terror Dorothea would’ve experienced from her family’s grand home ‘Dunara’ on Sydney’s jewel-like harbour. I can’t quite imagine exclusive Point Piper ever being so terror inducing.

That is unless the Australian real estate market was as terrifying then as it is today.

These days you’d consider yourself lucky to pick up a cottage on Point Piper for less than USD$25 million. Houses such as Altona, Elaine and Villa Del Mare continue to break real estate records.

I wonder what Dorothea would’ve made of that kind of Australia.

Just to give you an idea, this Point Piper pile – ostentatiously named Villa Del Mare – has all the luxurious bells and whistles you’d expect for USD$40 million including imposing Corinthian columns flanked by limestone cherubs and glistening harbour views from every room. It’s got everything. Except authentic character. It just isn’t for me.

At the other end of the Australian market, finding a charming weekend home in Australia for a modest USD$100,000 is easier said than done. Even cheap houses are, well, unexpectedly pricey. There is a smattering of properties around this price point but most are either studios (too small and hotel room like), immobile mobile homes (I’d rather a Jayco Expanda Caravan and actually be mobile) or properties with conditional ownership (retirement villages, serviced apartments within resorts etc).

My other issue in Australia is location. I just can’t bring myself to go beyond the black stump. The outback isn’t for me, nor is the bush. I’m not intrepid and don’t pretend to be. I’d like a coastal location, perhaps within 30 minutes of a pristine swimming beach.

And I’d like some balmy weather please. Too much to ask?

So after an excruciatingly long search I found an intriguing elevated cottage in Macknade, Queensland.

Macknade Map

Macknade is 12km northeast of Ingham

Macknade QLD.


This two bedroom rough diamond below – in tropical Macknade – is just a few streets from the glorious Herbert River. The town has two pubs and is located between Townsville and Cairns in Far North Queensland’s sugarcane heartland. Children can be nippers at nearby Forrest Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and it’s a short boat ride to world class National Parks including stunning Hinchinbrook and Orpheus islands. Orpheus also has OMG day spa facilities.

The delightful tropical climate would also ensure year round swimming and an oft used weekend home.

Stunning Herbert River

Stunning Herbert River

I could easily renovate this charming little Queenslander and give it a traditional FNQ look to the exterior. I’d start with a wide, wrap around veranda and source two pairs of reclaimed French doors to replace the front windows. Cool white paint, pale grey Colorbond roof and new staircase. Definitely a new staircase.

Macknade diamond in the rough

The little Macknade diamond

It could easily end up looking something like this.

Macknade 2.1

The perfect symmetrical Queenslander

The interior isn’t much chop, but it has promise.

Macknade 1.2

Ripe for renewal

Macknade 1.3

Easily fixed ‘lean to’ kitchen

Converting the interior with reclaimed materials appeals to me and seems appropriate for a weekend home. Perhaps I’d be inspired by this kitchen below, sans wood heater of course. Is it too nitpicky to say I love the recycled timber range hood cover? It’s darling!

Macknade 2.2

Converted to this, the house would make an uplifting weekend home

I’ll take it.

Just as I leapt from cloud eight to nine and prepared to call the estate agent, I found this.

The infamous Macknade backyard croc

The infamous 1952 Macknade backyard crocodile

Oh my.

Dorothea didn’t say those dramatic flooding rains bring eight foot crocodiles to your back door while your neighbours reach for their shot guns.

Now that’s terror Australis.

So perhaps I won’t take this house afterall.

The drawing board beckons and my search for a weekend home in Australia must continue elsewhere.

Postscript: In the time it took to write this post, the Macknade house has been placed under offer.

It wasn’t me. I swear.

Remind me to send a felicitous card to the lucky new owner.



2 thoughts on “Terror Australis

    • You’re very kind and oh so right, the Australian market is shockingly, weirdly expensive. It just seems so out of step with the rest of the world! I found it interesting looking into the Swedish market mostly because cliches about ‘expensive living’ are almost always hurled at Scandinavia. Looking at their local market I’d have to disagree. I’d be happy as a cricket in any of those $100,000 cottages and think if they were in Melbourne or Sydney they would all be $500,000 plus. Maybe plus some more!


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