Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland

Birdsville

 

We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.

 

Here are our favourite things about Queensland:

 

Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.

 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs

 

Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.

 

Lawn Hill

 

As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.

 

The Tablelands

 

 

Rainforests

The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.

 

Paronella Park 2015-04-25 231w

 

To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).

 

IMG_20150612_161845

 

Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.

 

Gold Coast 2015-06-12 101w

 

Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.

 

Cape York

 

Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

4WDing

There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.

 

Cape York

 

Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.

 

Fraser Coast 2015-05-13 082w

 

If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.

 

Landcruiser Mountain Park 2015-05-16 075w

 

Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.

 

Crystal Creek 2015-04-28 009

 

Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.

 

 

Blackdown Tableland 2015-05-07 035w

 

In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.

 

Lake Elphinstone 2015-05-05 031w

 

Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.

 

Springbrook NP 2015-06-12 052w

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 212w

City Profile : Townsville

Townsville 2015-04-29 212w

 

The largest tropical city in North Queensland, Townsville has a population of 200,000 people and an average of 300 sunny days per year.  While it’s a great tourism hotspot because of its access to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef, it doesn’t solely rely on tourism.  The economy is supported by a variety of industries, including government administration and defence, agriculture and mining, and because of this, the city has a completely different vibe compared to tourism-driven Cairns.  It feels like a city with deep roots and happy inhabitants that are friendly and welcoming.

 

Just off the coast is Magnetic Island, a popular holiday destination that was named by Captain Cook in 1770 after his compass went haywire when passing the island.  There are heaps of beaches, walking tracks and lagoons on the island, and it only takes 25 minutes by ferry to get there from Townsville.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 015w

 

History

The Bindal and Wulgurukaba People were the first people to have lived in the Townsville region.  While there were a few visitors to the area, including a brief pass by of Captain Cook’s fleet in 1770, settlement started in 1866 when a bloke called Robert Towns agreed to provide financial assistance.  Incidentally, Townsville was named after him and two years later, the settlement grew quickly as the port and service centre for the goldfields in the west.  With the addition of pastoral and sugar industries, Townsville’s population bloomed from 4,000 people in 1882 to 13,000 by 1891.

 

During World War 2, Townsville was a major military base and hosted around 90,000 American and Australian troops.  It was bombed three times by the Japanese and was a major offensive launching base for the battle of the Coral Sea.  And, as do all places in the tropics, Townsville has fallen victim to a few cyclones.

 

Attractions

Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium

Learn about the Great Barrier Reef and the creatures that reside there at the world’s largest coral reef aquarium.  For more information, check out our article here…

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 372w

 

The Strand

This beautiful 2.2km stretch of beachfront parkland is dotted with playgrounds and picnic areas, and features a water park, a few restaurants and the Strand Rock Pool, and manmade saltwater pool that’s free from stingers and biters.

 

Townsville 2015-04-30 014w

 

Castle Hill

A visit to Townsville isn’t complete without ascending the 268m to the top of Castle Hill.  This pink granite monolith overlooks the entire city and was one of the earliest sites named by the explorers who surveyed the area in 1864.  Whether you do it by car along the 2.6km winding road or the goat track on foot, the view from the top is incredible.  What impressed us the most was the amount of people walking, running and riding their way up the road towards the top – there must have been hundreds!

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 398w

 

Queens Gardens

The inner city park is the oldest botanic garden in Townsville and was first set up in 1870 as a garden of food bearing plants to feed the settlement.  These days, it includes a hedge maze, succulent and cactus gardens and bird aviaries.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 012w

 

Kissing Point & Jezzine Barracks

Kissing Point overlooks Cleveland Bay and was originally built in the 1800s as a fort to defend the harbour from the threat of foreign attack, particularly from the Russians.  Jezzine Barracks was built on the headland and occupied by military right up until 2006.  In 2009, the area was handed over to the community of Townsville and turned into a heritage precinct that commemorates the military and aboriginal heritage of Kissing Point headland.  There is a great display of war history and a lookout over the bay to Magnetic Island

 

Townsville 2015-04-30 007w

 

Food & Drink

The Townsville Brewing Company

The old Townsville post office was converted into a brewery, restaurant and function centre in 2001 and offers a great range of beers and awesome lunch specials.  Definitely worth stopping in.

 

Coffee Dominion

This coffee shop sells one thing and one thing only – coffee.  They roast, brew and sell beans at this outlet, and after putting them to the taste test, we give them the Melbournian tick of approval.  The coffee was strong and flavoursome and they know how to froth soy milk so that it’s silky and smooth.

http://www.coffeedominion.com.au/

 

Townsville 2015-04-30 041

 

Two Brothers Café

Just around the corner from the Information Centre is a café that serves up burgers and rolls named after famous brothers.  Choose between a Leyland Brothers Burger with chicken, swiss cheese and bacon or a Mario Brothers deli roll with roast beef, grilled sweet potato and marinated mushrooms.  Sounds good to us!

http://twobrotherscafe.com.au/

 

Information & Accommodation

The Information Centre is located in Bulletin Square, just off Flinders Street in the centre of town.  There are a few cafes nearby and public toilets as well.

 

The closest YHA to Townsville is on Magnetic Island, which makes it the perfect place to stay while you explore the island.  To make a booking, call (07) 4778 5577 or visit https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/qld/townsville-whitsundays/magnetic-island/

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 217w

 

About 30km out of town is Bluewater Rest Area.  It’s spacious and offers toilets, a playground and overnight stays for self-contained vehicles – no tents.

 

Townsville 2015-04-30 007w

Townsville 2015-04-29 062w

Attraction : Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium

Townsville 2015-04-29 106w

 

Did you know that sea stars have no brains or blood and they digest their food outside of their body by protruding their stomach out of their mouth?  Did you know that sharks have a special ‘electrosense’ that allows them to detect electrical impulses from living things?  For those who can’t swim or don’t like to get wet, the Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium provides the opportunity to meet all the creatures of the reef and learn about all of their special talents.

 

Formally known as the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland, Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium was built as a Bicentennial Commemorative project and opened in Townsville in 1987.  It is the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium that aims to educate people and catalyse changes that will protect the Great Barrier Reef for many years to come.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 208w

 

The Aquariums

There is a huge central aquarium that is home to the Coral Reef exhibit.  It’s 18 metres wide, 5 metres deep and is home to over 150 species of fish, including the only Scalloped Hammer Head Shark on display in Australia, as well as a large variety of hard and soft corals that are found only on the Great Barrier Reef.  The central aquarium is open to the elements so that the coral can receive natural light and weather, just like natural reefs.  Adjacent to the central tank is the Predator Tank, which is home to four species of shark and an array of other predatory fish and a replica of North Queensland’s most famous shipwreck the S.S. Yongala.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 256w

 

Surrounding the Coral Reef exhibit are many smaller aquariums displaying a variety of animals like upside-down jelly fish, moray eels, semi-circle angel fish, freshwater turtles and even bioluminescent flashlight fish.  We were fascinated with the shapes and colours of both the fish and the corals, and the interactive displays dotted around the complex were also fun.

 

The Tours

We attended all the tours on offer at the aquarium.  The Predator Dive Show was particularly interesting because one of the presenters was a diver inside the Predator Tank.  Here, we learnt that while sharks kill only 6 people a year, people kill around 100 million sharks.  We also learnt about beautiful and affectionate leopard sharks, and how they are one variety of shark that use spiracles to pump water over their gills so they can absorb oxygen.  This allows them to lay motionless on the ocean floor while other species of sharks need to keep moving or they will suffocate.  Leopard sharks are spotty like a leopard but their offspring look a lot different.  When they emerge from their strange egg capsules, they’re black and white to resemble a poisonous sea snake, and this gives them a better chance of survival.  The black and white markings have also earned them the name zebra shark.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 034w

 

The Turtle Hospital

Next door to the Reef HQ Aquarium is the community-funded Turtle Hospital, where sick and injured marine turtles can be cared for, rehabilitated and eventually released back into the ocean.  It also works to raise awareness about threatened species and educate the community about what they can do to promote conservation.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 164w

 

Things that you can do to help include:

 

  • Don’t by products made out of turtle… or any other protected animal!
  • Don’t disturb nesting turtles.
  • Keep Australia Beautiful and don’t litter. Plastic bags in the water look like jelly fish and turtles love to eat jelly fish!
  • Report dead or injured turtles to Marine Stranding Hotline 1300 ANIMAL.

 

We got to visit the Turtle Hospital one on of the tours and met six turtles that were being cared for, including a baby flatback turtle that had its eye damaged when a bird tried to snack on it during its flappy dash from its sandy nest to the sea.

 

Australia is home to six of the seven species of sea turtle.  The green sea turtle is the most common but the flatback is the only turtle that nests exclusively in Australia.  Only 1 in 1000 baby turtles survive to sexual maturity, which is at around 40 years of age.

 

Donations to the Turtle Hospital can be made at the Reef HQ Aquarium Turtle Hospital MyCause page or by calling the Reef HQ Aquarium on (07) 4750 0800.

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 192w

 

The Essentials

Entry to Reef HQ Aquarium covers all the talks and tours.  There is also a merchandise shop and a café onsite offering meals, drinks and snacks. Ticket prices and further details can be found on the Reef HQ website: http://www.reefhq.com.au/

 

Townsville 2015-04-29 372w

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

Our Time In Cairns

Cairns 2014-10-11 004

 

Who would have thought that what was supposed to be a short two-month stop in Cairns would drag on for seven months!  The main reason for the extended stay was because we needed to earn some money and fix the Troopy, but another important reason was because we needed to be close to an airport so we could fly back to Melbourne for Dave’s sister’s wedding in April.

 

 

Living in Cairns

With the intention of making contact with some new friends that we met up in Cape York, we arrived in Palm Cove just in time for the Reef Feast Festival.  Symon and Robyne were perfectly hospitable and let us stay at their place, which was a lifesaver while we sorted out more long-term arrangements.

 

 

After a few days, we moved into a hostel on Lake Street, about 3km from the city centre.  We worked for our accommodation – Juz was behind the reception desk while Dave drove the shuttle bus for guests between the airport and town.  As long as we worked 21 hours a week each, we had our private double room paid for, but Juz picked up a job at Subway for some extra cash, and eventually a visit to the emergency room because of a cut thumb.

 

Cairns 2014-11-18 003

 

 

However, after a month of living with scores of partying backpackers from various countries, working irregular hours and missing a clean and tidy kitchen, we moved out into a house down the street.  The rent for the room was affordable on Juz’s wages, the kitchen was tidy and had a gas stove, and our housemates were lovely and quiet.  Unfortunately, with the road to the airport just outside our window, and the flight path for incoming planes overhead, sleeping in was impossible and conversations would occasionally be interrupted by the roar of jet engines.  We also had an alien fungi farm growing under the sink!

 

Cairns 2014-11-24 006

.

 

After a month or two, we were presented with an offer we couldn’t refuse.  Cheap rent of a room with an ensuite for a few household favours meant that we moved away from the city to the suburb of Redlynch.  We lived at the base of the Great Dividing Range, close to major supermarkets and a gym but far, far away from the bustle of the city and noise of the airport.  We stayed here until the end of our time in Cairns, and enjoyed weekly cooking challenges with our housemate.

 

 

Working in Cairns

Once we had moved in to the Lake Street House, we were relieved to be free of our hostel duties.  Juz continued her job at Subway while Dave picked up three days of work per week as a landscaper.  He also worked two nights a week as a dish pig at the Palm Cove Surf Club, thanks to Symon putting a good word in.

 

 

When school holidays started, Juz’s shifts at Subway were cut to accommodate for the less expensive teens, so she looked for another way to earn some money.  A search on Gumtree turned up a casual data entry job whereby she could chose her own hours, her own hourly rate, and invoice the client at the end of the week.  It was a dream job that got even dreamier when the client suggested that Juz do it from home – score!

 

 

On top of the Subway job and data entry gig, Juz also enrolled to knock off another subject in her Nutritional Medicine degree.  Needless to say that when the school holidays were over and her Subway shifts were increased, she got stressed out and ditched Subway to focus on data entry and uni work at home.

 

 

In the meantime, Dave’s landscaping job dried up just in time for the Wet Season so he had to find another way to make an extra buck and keep himself busy.  He cleverly devised a plan that would solve both his problems.  Every fortnight, auctions were held in town to sell off a variety of goods, such as repossessed stolen goods, hospitality gear from closed restaurants, tools, furniture, computers, everything you can think of – including bikes!  The bikes would usually sell for between $5 and $20, so Dave would buy one or two each fortnight, fix them, clean them and sell them on Gumtree for what he thought the bike was worth.  One time – he sold a bike for $200!

 

Cairns 2014-12-12 010

 

 

Fun in Cairns

Our main, regular activity was trivia at the Red Beret Hotel on Monday nights.  On our first visit, we won the jackpot round ($150!) and were hooked.  Over time, we got another core player – Phillip – each week, we would try our luck at winning various vouchers.  Most of them were for Port Douglas, but the prizes for first and second place included a voucher for the Red Beret, so occasionally we would be rewarded with a free dinner.

 

 

 

When it came to making new friends in Cairns, it was fairly difficult with the locals because many of them seem to resent foreigners (the ones supporting Cairn’s tourism industry)!  Most of our friends in Cairns weren’t actually from Cairns at all – like Viki and Akos – a Hungarian couple that moved to Cairns around four years ago, and another couple from Darwin.  It was also great to meet up with local blogger, Kate Richards from Adventure Mumma (but not from Cairns), and chat about what’s great about Australia.  We made a few friends while we were staying at the hostel too.

 

 

Visitors!

We had so many visitors while we were in Cairns.  Both of Juz’s parents visited at around Christmas time, and we got to see Dave’s auntie and uncle when they spent a week in Port Douglas.

 

 

 

It was great to see Peter and Jo again – the last time we saw them was in the Barossa Valley in South Australia.  Another of our buddies, Smita, flew up to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

We were also happy to be visited twice by Peter and Saeng who we stayed with up in Cooktown.  They always brought us a goody-bag of home grown produce and some of Saeng’s home-made delicacies.

 

 

Pros & Cons of Cairns

Cairns is an awesome place to visit but can be difficult to reside in.  Unemployment is high unless you’re interested in hospitality work, and even then you have to complete with backpackers and low wages.  During the peak season there are lots of tourists, and we believe that some locals don’t enjoy this side of Cairns.

 

 

We arrived during the dry season and were looking forward to another opportunity to experience the wet season from December to February.  Unfortunately, all the cyclones that were picked up on the radar dodged Cairns and all we got was a splash of rain and lots of humidity.

 

 

 

 

With all this time spent in the tropics of Australia, we are ready to say goodbye to the misty mountains and sugar cane fields and we look forward to heading south to cooler climates.

 

 

Thanks Cairns!

 

Cairns 2014-10-13 003water

 

Cairns

City Profile : Cairns

Cairns

 

Cairns is a city in tropical north Queensland and is a major tourism destination for both Australians and Internationals.  We were here for around 7 months and really got to know Cairns – we even got to meet a fellow blogger, Kate Richards (AdventureMumma).

 

Outdoor fitness is a big focus in Cairns, with a timetable of free activities on offer along the Esplanade, like yoga, Zumba and tai chi.  The Lagoon is also popular with everyone.  Many locals also run along the Promenade or work out at one of the fitness stations.

 

Cairns 2014-10-17 003

 

One thing you’ll notice about Cairns is the smelly bats.  They hang around in the trees near the library and Cairns City bus terminal during the day and once the sun starts to set, they get active and take flight to find their dinner.  If you’re looking for a car park and don’t mind a bit of poop on your car, there is usually a spot or two available next to the library.

 

Cairns 2015-03-06 002sm

 

Fast Facts

  • Cairns is one of the fastest growing towns in Queensland, with a population of over 151,000 people and is a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
  • Over 2 million Aussie and international tourists visit Cairns every year.
  • The region is home to the world’s most dangerous bird – the cassowary – and the world’s largest moth – the Hercules moth.
  • Queensland’s highest mountain Mount Bartle Frere (1622m) is 51km to the south.
  • Cairns has the highest youth unemployment rate in Queensland with over 21% of 15 to 24 year olds not working (December 2014)

 

History

Cairns, like many other towns in Australia, was founded after the discovery of gold.  The city was named after Sir William Wellington Cairns, an Irish fellow who was appointed the governor of Queensland in 1875, one year before Cairns was founded.

 

Cairns started off as an uninhabitable swamp with nothing much to offer until a railway was built to connect the coast to the Tablelands.  After nearly 30 years of settlement, Cairns finally became a town in 1903 with a population of 3,500.  Once the gold rush died down, the railway was used for agricultural purposes to transport fruit and dairy to the coastal flats, where the sugar cane grew and still grows to this day.

 

Being in the tropics isn’t all sunshine and coconuts – cyclones can sweep through at any time during the wet season and cause some serious damage.  Cairns met Cyclone Willis in 1927 and Cyclone Agnes in 1956, and while both were fairly destructive, Cairns recovered.

 

Tourism in Cairns became a major industry in the 1980s with the opening of the international airport and listing of World Heritage areas in the surrounding rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.  It is still a major tourism city that attracts visitors from all over the world who want to see the reef and explore the Daintree.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

Places of Interest

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

This awesome place is located in the dome on top of the Casino.  Meet some cute Aussie animals and brave the zip line and rope course above, all in one day!

 

Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome

 

The Esplanade & Marina

Cairns may be a major tourism centre but for the locals, outdoor fitness and activities make up a big part of the culture.  The Esplanade is reclaimed land that has been renovated into a wonderful outdoor venue for everyone.  Have a picnic on the grass, go for a run along the promenade, or have a splash in the lagoon.  There are free fitness activities on every week, like yoga, volleyball or Zumba, and there is also a Saturday morning market.

 

The marina is just around the corner and is a great place to buy some fresh seafood straight from the fishing boats.  The Pier Shopping Centre nearby has a variety of bars, restaurants and retail shops.

 

 

Rusty’s Markets

Rusty’s is open on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, but the best time to go for cheap fruit and vegetable is between 2pm and 4pm on Sunday.  There’s a huge variety of tropical fruits, Asian greens and unusual produce.  There’s also a few food trucks and stalls selling bags, bibs and bobs.

 

The Night Markets

On every night from 4:30pm, the night markets are accessible from the Esplanade and feature a variety of stalls from jewellery and lanolin creams to massage and souvenirs galore.  The food court on the Esplanade side is a good place for a cheap feed.  For $14.90, purchase an extra large tub and fill it with ALL THE FOODS – octopus, battered fish, fried prawns, omelette, everything…

 

Centenary Lakes Botanic Garden

A few clicks out of town you’ll find the Cairns botanic gardens.  There is a beautiful rainforest section, bamboo gardens, lakes with turtles and a variety of birds and for the fabulously fit, the Red Arrow Walk will reward you with great views over the airport.

 

Nearby is the Tanks Art Centre, which holds monthly markets during the dry season, and the Flecker Gardens display a diverse range of tropical plants and pretty flowers – keep your eyes open for the White Bat Flower – amazing.

 

Cairns Botanic Gardens

 

Palm Cove

About 27km north of Cairns is Palm Cove – a little beach community that is popular with holiday makers and weddings.  The esplanade is choc-a-block with fancy and award-winning restaurants, hotels and tourist outlets that are built around old Melaleuca trees, while the long white beach lined with palm trees is perfect for wedding photos or a great holiday snap.

 

We rocked up to Palm Cove just in time for the Reef Feast festival, and sampled some of the food on offer from some of the best restaurants in the village.

 

Palm Cove, Cairns

 

Behana Gorge & Walsh’s Pyramid

Walsh’s Pyramid is visible from the top of the Casino in Cairns, but it is about 28km south along the A1 highway.  At 922m, it is believed to be the highest freestanding pyramid in the world, and is a part of the same mountain range as Queensland’s two highest mountains, Mount Bartle Frere (1622 m) and Mount Bellenden Ker (1593 m).

 

Nestled in between the peaks is Behana Gorge.  Be prepared for the long walk but it’s worth it once you get to explore the gorge and cool off in the waters that make up Cairns’ water supply.

 

Behana Gorge Cairns

 

Crystal Cascades

A little closer to town is a secluded swimming hole that is quite the local hotspot.  Crystal Cascades is about 5km south of Redlynch and is popular during the summer months as visitors cool off in the fresh water pools.

 

Cairns 2014-11-17 057

 

Big Captain Cook & Big Marlin

Cairns has two Big Things – one can be seen as you drive along the Cook Highway while the other is near Stockland Shopping Centre in Earlville.

 

Food & Drink

Our first visit to Cairns started with a pub crawl through town, and from that venture, we can say that the Union Jack and the Courthouse Hotel are great pubs for a Sunday sesh, while the Croc Bar at the Grand Hotel is a sight to see.  If you prefer to party, check out Gilligan’s.

 

 

We also went to a few trivia nights throughout the week.  Thursday nights was at the Salthouse – meals and drinks are expensive but the pork belly pizza is delicious, and there are plenty of prizes to be won.  Sunday nights at the Serpent Bar at Nomads on Lake Street is a very cheap night in terms of meals and drinks, but there is only one prize – a round of drinks for the winning team.  Monday nights at the Red Beret in Redlynch was our favourite trivia spot – not only because it was close to home and the trivia format was good, but the chicken fajitas won Juz over.  Don’t try the pizza though – Roscoe’s across the road is much better.

 

Here are a few other eateries worth mentioning…

 

Asian Delights

If you love noodle soup and dumplings, there are two locations that are perfect.  Rest assured that if the wait for a table at Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is too long, you can wander around the corner to Tokyo Dumpling and still be satisfied with a great value meal.  Another great Asian place is BaMien Vietnamese Cafe.  We had visitors from Melbourne and took them here for lunch.  It was a fluke that this place turned out to be fantastic.  The dishes were well priced, well portioned and absolutely delicious.

 

Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum Cairns

 

Great Cafes

Coffee lovers can head to two locations in the city – Caffiend and Smith Street Cafe.  Both offer great coffee in a funky environment.  If you’re after a tasty breakfast, try the Lillipad Cafe or Ozmosis near the Botanic Gardens.  Lillipad has some great vegetarian options while Ozmosis gets you out of the city with their scrumptious Eggs Benedict.

 

Cairns 2014-11-09 009

 

Ochre Restaurant

Having won multiple awards, Ochre Restaurant is considered to be the best restaurant in Cairns. Juz’s awesome sister got us an Ochre gift voucher for Christmas so we got to indulge in a bit of modern Australian cuisine, like wallaby steak, Davidson plum jam and lemon myrtle sweet chilli sauce.

 

Cairns 2015-04-07 008sm

 

Pizza Quest

We were in Cairns for around 6 months and took it upon ourselves to find the best pizza.  Some pizzas were too soggy, lacked flavour or were overpriced.  All in all, we found some great pizzas

 

Information & Accommodation

Cairns Tourist Information Centre – Cnr Alplin St & The Esplanade, Cairns.  Ph: (07) 4031 1751

Public transport in Cairns is mainly a bus network operated by SunBus.  For information about ticketing and timetables, go here: http://www.sunbus.com.au/sit_cairns.htm

 

Cairns Central YHA is conveniently located in the city at 20-26 McLeod Street.  To make a booking, call (07) 4051 0772 or visit their website. 

 

Cairns
 

Great Barrier Reef

Natural Wonder : The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns 2014-12-24 010 - Copy

 

Hi everyone!  Juz here…

 

My mum came to visit us in Cairns during the Christmas period, and while she was here, she wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  I was also keen to see the natural wonder so a booking was made with Ocean Spirit Cruises.

 

The day started early – we needed to be at the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal by around 7:30am to board the catamaran by 8am.  We had our bags packed with all the essentials – togs, towels, thongs, tonnes of sunscreen and an underwater camera we hired from a shop in Cairns for $45.

 

Great Barrier Reef
The boat took about two hours to get to our destination, so we did some sunbaking, watched a presentation about the animals that we might see, and we were treated to complementary morning tea.  Michaelmas Cay is a small sand island surrounded by reef, about 41km from Cairns.  It’s actually a national park and is a protected sanctuary for around 23 species of migrating seabirds like sooty terns and boobies.  The boat was anchored about 100 metres from the cay and after a quick fish feeding session, a shuttle boat started to taxi people to the island.

 

Great Barrier Reef 2014-12-29 008 - Copy

 

With 4 hours to spend on the reef, we spent as much time as we could in the water, looking at colourful coral and watching the fish.  The parrot fish were particularly memorable, especially in big groups – if you held your breath and listened, you could hear their hard beaks crunching away at the coral.  Other highlights included seeing a green turtle, giant clams with fluorescent colours and tiny clown fish.

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

After a few hours of snorkelling, it was time for lunch.  We caught the shuttle boat back to the catamaran for a full buffet lunch that included chicken, prawns, ham off the bone, vegetable curry and various salads, and for dessert, there was fruit salad and carrot cake.  Everything was absolutely delicious, and due to our severe food coma, we didn’t go back to the island.  Instead, we went on a tour of the reef in a semi-submersible coral viewing boat before collapsing in the lounge of the catamaran with no more energy to move.

 

It was at this point that I realised that I must have been sitting down when I applied sunscreen, because my butt and lower back were burnt to a crisp. The two hour journey back to Cairns was spent on the verge of napping, but we held it together for a complementary glass of sparkling wine.

 

Great Barrier Reef

 

Once we got back to Cairns, we went to the store where we hired to underwater camera to retrieve our images, which were handed to us on a complementary 4GB SD card.

 

All in all, it was a fabulous day.  Seeing the reef was a humbling experience, especially from within the semi-sub.  When you see portions of the reef as big as houses and consider that it stretches for 2,600km and is an ancient platform for an abundance of life, you truly appreciate why it needs to be protected.  Ocean Spirit Cruises are a great way to go out and see the reef, but if you can’t afford the $188, there are budget tours for around $99.  If you plan to visit any of the towns and cities along the coast that call themselves the ‘Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’, I highly recommend that you allocate  some cash for a  day on the water.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

 

 

Thanks mum!  I had a great day on the Reef, and my bum didn’t peel one bit!