07.03.2016 - 07.05.2016 83 °F
Brisbane, Sunday July 3- Waking up early at 3:45am in order to take the 4:30am shuttle to the airport. Upon arrival we will check in with JetStar for their direct flight to Cairns. We feel pretty lucky to have found rooms in Cairns on the beach. We have learned that students in Australia are on their winter break and that Cairns is a very popular destination for Australians during the break. Our rooms are booked at the Grand Mercure Rockford Esplanade in Palm Cove (just west of Cairns). The rooms are prepaid and there is no refund at this point for a cancellation.
We arrive at the airport in Brisbane and go to the JetStar counter for check in. We are advised that there are no available seats on the next flight to Cairns. We also learn that there are no seats available on any JetStar flight to Cairns that day or the next day. When you get pitched a curve ball you have to adjust your swing!
We hightail it over to the Qantas Airlines service desk to find out if they have seats available. We really don’t want to do an 18 hour cannonball express car rental. Qantas has seats open and we quickly book tickets with them for the next flight.
Note about Qantas: The folks at Qantas are amazing. They helped walk us through the pass travel procedures and were so kind. Customer service representative, gate agents, flight and cabin crew all did an outstanding job. Safe, clean, on-time and with inflight amenities (breakfast, lunch, etc) on every flight. We are huge fans of Qantas!
The flight to Cairns is smooth and the breakfast was really good. I know, I know.... you’re thinking it’s airplane food. I was thinking that too but seriously it was a good breakfast. Anyway, we arrive in Cairns and the temperature is about 78-79 degrees with tropical humidity. Big change from the 50 degrees in Brisbane. We pick up our rent car from Thrifty and find that we have a brand new Hyundai H1. I am a little used to the controls at this point and only hit the windshield wipers every now then when signaling a turn. We head towards Palm Cove to check into our rooms and hit the beach.
Note about Palm Cove: Cairns doesn’t really have many beach areas in the immediate area. There is a beautiful esplanade walkway that goes to the water’s edge but the area is not really suitable for swimming. Most of the beach areas are west of Cairns i.e. Palm Cove.
Palm cove is about a 25 minute drive from the airport. The scenery along the drive is beautiful; cane fields, mountains and kangaroos. We arrive at the hotel early for check in and find that only one of the two rooms is ready. No big deal, we go to that room and then head down to the beach. By the way, the rooms are really nice. It is more along the lines of a two bedroom condo than a hotel room. There is a kitchenette, dining area, living room and a washer/dryer in the units. Very clean and nice views.
By now it is close to lunch time so we elect to have lunch on the esplanade overlooking the beach at a restaurant called Wok On. Great food and the owner / chef and his wife are awesome folks. As we sit there enjoying lunch it is amazing to think that we are in Cairns, Australia overlooking the beach on the Coral Sea. It is absolutely beautiful.
The rest of the day is just relaxation time. We get settled into the rooms and explore around the hotel, swim in the surf, walk the beach and just take in the sights around us. That evening we head over to a local market to pick up some breakfast items, snackage and beer/wine. Australia has the craziest flavored chips you will ever find. We saw flavor combos that were off the hook. Chicken flavored chips, sweet chili and lime, it’s all there. Oh yes and Tim Tams the best cookies in the world. You can get them in the States!
When we got back to our hotel rooms we booked a snorkeling / dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef for Wednesday. Beyond the dive trip we really didn’t plan out what we did each day other than to just explore at our own pace. To that end, the next day (Monday) we decide to go to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure since it was highly recommended by the hotel staff. If you are even remotely close by this is a must do! In addition to the saltwater crocs (they are freaking huge) Hartley’s is a huge zoo. Koalas, kangaroos, birds, reptiles and all sorts of other animals. The boat tour and feeding show for the crocs will keep you from ever wanting to swim near croc areas, ever.
On the drive back from Hartley’s we passed a section of beach that had a bunch of stacked rock piles. We stopped to check it out and found that it was just something folks did for no real reason other than it looked cool. So we added to the stacks! We then drove down towards Cairns with the intent to do the SkyCar cablecar ride to Kuranda. It is basically a cable car that goes through the rainforest and over a mountain to the village of Kuranda. Unfortunately that attraction is booked full for that day and for the rest of the week.
We headed back to the hotel and enjoyed some beach time. We went out for dinner at Neptune’s on the esplanade. Great seafood! Ice cream cones on the walk back and we were done for the day!
Tuesday. Since the cablecar was booked up we decide to drive to Kuranda ourselves. Let’s just say the drive was interesting since the road has more curves than a pig’s tail. Along the way we see a rainforest station and stop in to check it out. We find that they offer duck boat rides (amphibious boat style rides) through the rain forest so we buy seats and off we go. It was really cool to find how many different plants and insects there are that will kill or maim you in the rain forest. When we get back from the ride we find that we can hold a koala bear for a picture. Game on! The kiddos all get their picture made while holding Noobie the koala.
We leave the rainforest station and make our way to Kuranda Village from which we hike over to Barron Falls. The waterfall was more of a trickle this time of year but the scenery was still amazing. After we hike back we head back to the hotel stopping for a drive through lunch at Macca’s. On the beach we rent some paddle boards and find that it is harder than it looks to stand up on those things. The kids have a blast though and that’s what matters. Dinner was fish and chips while sitting at a table on the beach. Fish and chips are sooo good.
Next up, the Great Barrier Reef.