When you get off the plane in a completely different climate zone, this first breeze of hot and humid air is just the best. Especially if you come to the tropics in winter you may feel like being in a different world, when, sometimes still wearing winter clothes, you go down the steps right into the embrace of heat, and breathing feels like someone had pressed hot, wet towel against your face 😊
And that’s exactly what we’ve experienced when we landed in Cairns. As you would expect in a tropical state of Queensland, we were greeted by summer in full swing, so right after we checked in (Hilton Double Tree – really nice hotel), we jumped in the pool and spent the whole day there (Lily was swimming even at 10 pm, which she was really excited about). The pool was surrounded by lush tropical trees and plants, and it felt like being in a jungle already.
There are some mango trees along the main street of Cairns, and there is so many fruit bats on them, that the trees aren’t green anymore, but black, and bats are so loud and screeching, that you can’t hear the person standing next to you.
Cairns Esplanade is also very popular attraction among locals and tourists – it’s a natural swimming pool / lagoon joined with the ocean, and basically the whole city come here for a paddle and splash around 😊.
There is this amazing restaurant – La Trattoria, also on one of the main streets (it’s all easy to find as centre of Cairns is quite small). We even came here for pizza and prawn and rocket salad on Christmas Eve. What else interesting is there to do? Just see below where we decided to go.
Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is base for excursions to Great Barrier Reef, the biggest coral reef in the world. It’s bigger than Great Britain, Holland and Switzerland put together, and can even be seen from space. It’s a home to hundreds of underwater species and colourful and strange little creatures. We wanted to see some of these wonders, so we booked snorkeling trip, which turned out to be a total disaster. Motto of the companies organizing trips to the reef is “the more the better for us”. I absolutely hate this kind of attractions for the masses, and on that boat I literally felt like we were a cattle or sardines in a tin. Crowds and crowds of people on the boat, we even had some numbers, as I remember, by which we were called to go to the water. Nightmare. Spontaneous, unforgettable experience of having unspoiled contact with pristine nature at its best it was not. And despite that the reef really is beautiful, I just couldn’t appreciate it at all in those circumstances.
So if the reef is the place you want to see the most, do a bit more research and find excursions for smaller groups (might be expensive, even our pathetic tour costed 150 AUD pp). Another option is to go to Green Island, stay overnight and snorkel on the reef there. I wish I’d have done that, because the island is amazing like Bora Bora or the Maldives, but on the other hand it costs 400 £ per night, so the price is luxurious too.
I had a proper look at the tour operators and their offers, and if I were here between July and August, I would go whale watching to Withsundays, with company with great feedback called Ocean Dynamics. Withsundays is a group of 74 dream islands in the middle of the reef, with white powder sand, turquoise water and walking trails through in the rainforest. Most of them are uninhabited, but there are accommodation options on 4 of them. To get here, you need to fly to Hamilton Island (it’s 1.5 h flight from Cairns, cost around 200 AUD).
If you really want to feel the vibes of paradise island, the closest one to Cairns is Fitzroy Island, and it’s also much more affordable.
There are a lot more little islands on the reef: Lizard Island, Haggerstone Island, Heron Island, Orpheus Island, Pumpkin Island, to list just a few. Some are cheaper, some more expensive, you can choose one, according to your needs and snorkel or dive there for a couple of days.
Daintree rainforest and Cape Tribulation
Rainforest at its best, jungle with lush green plants, massive palm trees, rustling and crunching under your feet, constant buzzing and clothes so sticky and wet that it’s hard to put them on. Love it😊. Daintree is a perfrct place for a unique tropical adventure. We stayed at budget Cape Trib Beach House, which is a complex of huts spread around the jungle, pretty basic, but what more do you need in such fantastic and special place, where the rainforest meets the ocean, and on the giant, wild beach there is absolutely no one else but you, how cool is that? 🙂
If you can go a little crazy with accommodation, have a closer look at hotels and lodges options in Daintree and Cape Tribulation, because there are some you get goose bumps just by looking at them. My favourite is luxurious Silky Oaks Lodge, which are literally a tree houses, built on the high wooden poles in the tree crowns, connected with each other by narrow hanging bridges. And this name – silky oaks – captures so well how the trees look after rain, when wet, they’re smooth and shiny just like silk.
Ok, enough dreaming and back to the subject.
Cape Tribulation beach in Daintree is a place I’ll never forget. It’s long, vast, exotic and completely deserted. Because of potential crocodiles presence at this time of year it was not allowed to go in the water, but we had a swim later on in the pool, it was evening and the rain was pouring down (also unforgettable experience).
Takes about 45 minutes by bus from Sydney to get there, it’s worth the trip I assure you. The water here is unbelievably warm, like in the bath tub, with temperature of 29 °C it’s just ideal for me, as I absolutely hate cold water. I wasn’t even bother by jellyfish and crocs 😊. Jokes aside, there are restricted areas for swimming, surrounded by safety net. The beach is beautiful, big and also a bit deserted, at least it was when we where there.
The next and also the last post about Australia will be about Northern Territory and Kakadu National Park, with lots and lots of crocs pictures 😊 Stay tuned.