Reef Holiday in Cairns, Australia

We had the pleasure of spending 5 days in Cairns, Australia the week of Sept 24th. If you ever get the chance, don't miss a trip to Cairns!!! It's a magical place!

Reef Holiday in Cairns, Australia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ElyseMc on October 8, 2000

One of the main attractions of visiting Cairns is the access to the Great Barrier Reef! Since there are MANY tour options available, you are sure to find a trip to suit your taste. We opted for a deep-sea fishing trip, a snorkel trip on a sailboat, and driving tours on our own. Each day was better than the one before!${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} The best way to get around Cairns is to rent a car and drive. That is, if you can adjust to the English-style of driving! We only ended up on the wrong side of the road a few times! Actually, you learn pretty fast! And when your downtown, park and walk to visit their many shopping centers and restaurants. The dining in Cairns is fabulous!

Cairns Hilton

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ElyseMc on October 8, 2000

Nice hotel. The staff was very accommodating, and rooms were very comfortable. Our room overlooked the bay, and we were able to see all of the boats going out each morning and coming in in the evenings.

The Hilton is also just walking distance from where everything is 'happening.' Within 5 minutes, you can reach the boat docks, where the tours leave; the Pier Mall; all downtown shopping, and several great restaurants. For those of us that like a little extra entertainment, The Reef Casino is right across the street!

Hilton Cairns
34 Esplanade Cairns Queensland
Cairns, Australia, 4870
+61 (7) 40502000

Cairns, Australia - 2

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ElyseMc on October 8, 2000

On Monday, we had to meet on the dock at 7:15 AM (ugh – 5:15 AM to us) in the morning. We had signed up to take a Mixed Fishing trip, which was a combination of deep sea pole fishing, and also hand fishing on the reef with a spool (similar to what we did at the Maldives). The name of the boat was Bill Fish, and soon we met Bill the driver, who we ended up calling Wild Bill. There was a total of 6 guests on board, and 3 crew members. The first fish hooked was a young black marlin, and it was so exciting seeing him jump out of the water as they reeled him in. Unfortunately for the guy reeling, the line broke just as the fish was coming in to the boat. We all got a good look at the fish, but not a one of us got a picture of it! Despite trying for a few hours, the only other fish caught on the poles was a Long Tom, or barracuda to us. Out of the water he looked to be about 3 or 4 feet long, but if I had been snorkeling, I’m sure he would have looked 6 or 7 feet to me!

I really don’t like swimming with those guys. We had a little excitement mid-morning. One of the other girls on the boat (there were 3 girl and 3 guy guests) looked out once and said 'oh my god, is that a shark?' We all looked out just in time to see a dorsal fin headed right at our boat. Even the crew said 'it sure looks like it,' but just before the fish got to the boat, it was apparent that it wasn’t a shark. It was a couple of dolphins (yes, like Flipper). They came up beside our boat and put on a show, swimming together and then leaping out of the water. Just like the dolphin show at Six Flags! You’ll have to just trust me on this one though, because by the time I had retrieved my camera, they had left. They were so cool to see! We also heard that they had humpback whales come up in that area a lot, and one had even beached himself in the mud flats earlier this year. I watched all day to see one, but it wasn’t meant to be on that day.

After catching the barracuda, we anchored and did a little reef fishing. In reef fishing, they give you a spool with heavy-duty fishing line on it. After baiting the HUGE hook with real fish and cut up squid, they instructed us to let the line run until it stops, which means we had hit the bottom. I never seemed to get the hang of this, since the fish ALWAYS got my bait, and I NEVER caught a fish. It wasn’t until about the end of the fishing that I discovered that you were not supposed to leave your hook and bait on the bottom, but pull it back up a little. I could feel nibbles sometimes, but the fish never took my hook. Everyone else on board caught some of the colorful reef fish, but not me. I decided that I was better at photography anyway. So I went to have a sandwich and gave up on the fishing.

The end of the day was fun, but a little scary. Since the weather in Cairns had been a little stormy, the sea was fairly rough. And when it came time to head in, Wild Bill opened that boat up to what felt like full throttle. Steve and I were sitting up on the top deck (where Wild Bill was), and when we would hit waves at certain angles, it soaked us. I don’t really think he was doing it on purpose, but he certainly wasn’t doing anything to prevent it either. It would have been fine if the weather had been really hot, but by this time it was cloudy and had cooled off, not to mention that I was sunburned to a crisp. Now let me stop right here and tell you that if an Aussie ever tells you to put sunscreen on, do it. Since the weather felt a little cool, and the sun didn’t feel that hot, I didn’t think I was getting burned. At least I did have the good sense to buy a hat the night before. I guess that kept the part in my hair from getting sunburned. My face, ears, neck, shoulders, arms, and even hands got baked. Hey, for a few days, I had a GREAT tan … and then the peeling started. Oh boy, was that ever fun. I don’t think I’ve had a sunburn that bad ever. Oh, and mid-day, I did put on 30 SPF. It was the morning sun that got me so bad too. Who would have thought? Anyway, going back to town, Steve and I ended up sitting VERY close to try and stay warm. It was too rough to climb back down and get inside the boat cabin, and neither of us wanted to sound like a sissy by asking Wild Bill to slow down. Actually, it was fun and a little exciting. All-in-all, it was a great day. That night, we decided to try a restaurant called FishLips that Jan and Tommy Doerr had recommended (they had gone to Cairns in February). This one had several awards on the walls saying it was voted 'Best Restaurant in Cairns,' and if the food hadn’t convinced us, the service would have. I had a fisherman’s platter with fried prawns, oysters, fish, and lobster! YUM! (Wish I had a plate of that right now!) Steve had their signature fish and chips, and you didn’t hear either one of us complain. Full and tired, we decided to call it a night. However, once we got back to the hotel, Steve mentioned going to check out the casino (The Reef) that was across the street from the Hilton. By this time, I had caught second wind, so we went over. He played Black Jack while I hit the slots. And Steve walked out with more money than he went in with! That Lucky Dog!!!

Cairns, Australia - 3

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ElyseMc on October 8, 2000

Tuesday we got up to clouds and rain. Actually, that was ok with us, since neither of us really wanted any more sun. We had decided that that day would be our driving tour. Port Douglas is another town close by that was recommended to visit, so we decided to check it out. One of our Aussie friends had told me to tell the kangaroos hello for her, so I kept my eyes peeled to see one. I thought that Aussies had kangaroos like Texans had cows. Nope. More like deer. I understand you never see them out in the light of day, but in the late evenings or early mornings. Sure blew my idea of seeing a kangaroo. I also found out that they don’t have so many in the rainforest and reef areas. Actually, that was a little surprising since everywhere around the area there were sugar cane fields … and they were in the middle of harvesting. Anyway, the drive to Port Douglas took about 1.5 hours (it’s only about 36 miles), but the road is a twisting, winding road along the ocean. It’s a lovely drive, and you should take it if you ever get the chance.

Once in Port Douglas, we ate lunch at a place called Iron Bar (Steve liked it because they had t-bone steaks as the lunch special), and wandered around the town a little bit. The town itself gave me the same feel that Telluride, Colorado does. Laid-back, with lot of souvenir stores along with the artsy-fartsy shops. You could spend as much or as little as you liked here. I bought a couple of t-shirts (they were on sale), so I could cover up my sunburn. I got so tired of people staring at me like I was a freak, or coming up and telling me that I was sunburned. I mean, get real people … like I hadn’t already figured that out.

After P-Douglas, we decided to drive on north and check out the Daintree Rainforest at Mossman Gorge. What we saw there, just whetted our appetite for more! After taking their short hiking trail (and making a potty break), we decided to drive on up north to Cape Tribulation, where the paved roads end in northeast Australia. This involved crossing the Daintree River by ferry … LOTS of signs warning about the crocodiles in the area!!! No swimming, no standing by the water, no walking along certain areas. OK, they convinced me! We also saw signs along the road to watch out for the cassawaries … the big Australian birds. Although we watched and watched, we NEVER saw any cassawaries. Steve decided it was just a ploy by the highway department to make people slow down.

We did reach Cape Tribulation around 5:30 PM, and I have to admit that they should have named it Camp Tribulation instead. There just wasn’t much there. We did see a tea farm, which was cool, and there was a sign for an ice-creamery (which we didn’t see). By the time we got there, the roadside potty buildings were closed, and the crocodile signs had me worried about going behind a bush (and with good reason). We stopped at a roadside fast food joint and each had a bag of chips, and decided that maybe we should start back down the mountain and try to have dinner at P-Douglas. It’s a good thing, because by the time we reached the Daintree ferry, it had gotten dark. Needless to say, I never actually saw a crocodile, but I sure saw some likely places for them to be. Tuesday night, we ate dinner back at P-Douglas at a Thai food restaurant that I had seen earlier (Star of Siam). This was the poorest excuse for a Thai food restaurant that I had ever seen. The service sucked, and the Tom Yam Gung soup was sweet! I love that soup, and if it doesn’t give you a good burn, there’s something wrong! I’m sure they had adjusted their recipes to suit the tourist tastes, but I’ve been to Thailand and I can tell you that it didn’t taste right. The man waiting on us smiled when he heard that we were from Cairns, and were heading back. He proudly told us that they also had a Star of Siam in Cairns. Sure glad he saved us the trouble of going there.

Cairns, Australia - 4

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ElyseMc on October 8, 2000

Wednesday was the day I’ve wanted to happen for a long time … the snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef! This day, we met at the Ecstasea sailboat at 8:10 in the morning, and headed out. 18 guests with a crew of about 6. Since I’ve always heard that there are a lot of sharks around Australia, I had the feel of Roy Schneider in 'Jaws' when he headed out to look for the Great White. In the paper just that morning we had read about two different shark attacks on surfers. One guy was hurt and in the hospital, and one guy was never found at all … just half of his surfboard. Of course, the crew onboard the boat assured me that that was on the south coast, and they rarely saw sharks in the GBR area at all. OK .. I’m game. (so to speak)

As we cruised out to the snorkel site (Upolu Reef), we visited with the crew. As with most Australians that we came into contact with over the week, they were quite friendly. By the end of the day, we felt like we had new best buddies. So, for a couple of hours we visited and just enjoyed the upcoming day. Once we got to the reef, they announced that they had wetsuits for rent, for anyone that wanted one. Neither Steve nor I have ever snorkeled in a wetsuit, but decided to rent them not only for the protection from the cold water, but also to protect my sunburn. Ended up being the best money we spent all week. I think if I had been in the water without one, I would have been pretty chilly! Actually, everyone except a couple of the Europeans ended up renting the suits. And they ended up helping out in more than those two ways .. they also help you float!

The guides had asked earlier if there was anyone who wasn’t a strong swimmer, and once in the water I understood why. The current was terribly hard to fight! At first we were all just floating into each other … am sure we all looked like the 3 Stooges trying to snorkel … but soon we got the hang of spreading out. Luckily, the boat came equipped with swimming noodles, which also helped when fighting the current. In no time at all, we were a good distance from the boat. Our group of snorkelers all swam with a couple of the guides, and they showed us things like blue starfish (yes, bright cobalt blue!) and sea cucumbers (nasty to the touch!). Then they lead us over to see the giant clams. That was SO cool! These things were about 4 feet across, and looked like they were smiling at us. One of the guides swam down and petted the clam, which made him close. I wish the sun had been shining more (it was a little cloudy) so the visibility would have been better.

In all honesty, we didn’t see anything scary, but I would have liked to have been able to see a little better. Steve saw a sea turtle, but by the time any of the rest of us got over to where he was, we couldn’t see it. I’m sure that guy was long gone. After a little while, I had seen all that I really wanted to see, plus the fact that my mask wouldn’t quit fogging up, and actually I was feeling a little fatigued from fighting the current. Since we were a good distance from the boat by now, I had one of the guides swim back to the boat with me. Yeah, I’m a scardy cat. Once I got to the boat, my legs were so shaky from swimming that I had a little trouble getting up the ladder. I pulled out of the wetsuit (just like an all over the body girdle!), dried off a little, and decided that I was done for the day. A few minutes later, the rest of the snorkelers came in and we all had a tasty lunch.

After a little while, they took the hard-core snorkelers back out for another fight with the current, but this time I opted for a ride in the glass bottom boat. Actually, it was a very small boat, and it was just the driver of the boat and me, so I got a customized personal tour. I really liked looking at the coral formations and things through the bottom of the boat. It wasn’t all fogged up like my mask! The guy taking me around took me over some neat looking coral, and even found some blue coral. I had never seen that before (well, not in the wild … only in a jewelry showcase). A couple of guys on the boat wanted to scuba dive, but even they only took one dive because of the strong current and lack of visibility. We hear that it’s usually better than the day we were out, but no one let it ruin their day. After everyone was back on the boat, they lifted the sails and we sailed a while.

During the course of the trip, they served us fresh fruit, wine, and cheese. By the time we got back to the dock, I think everyone agreed that it was a trip well worth your money! Not the cattle-cars that the bigger tour groups put on. As we passed one of the larger boats, the crew on our boat said 'ok … let’s give them the Ecstasea welcome' and they all 'moo-ed.' Don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in all my life.

Wednesday night, we were bushed, so we found a corner pizza stand and ordered a pizza.

Thursday was our last day to play around town, and we had reserved that day to drive up the mountain into the rainforest and visit Kuranda, an aboriginal village. The drive up was scenic (as was everywhere in the region), but once we got to Kuranda there were people galore. Built to house several markets selling crafty items, we walked through a few of the shops and looked. Nothing there that we really wanted, so we ate lunch (and it wasn’t very good) and headed back down. Along the way, we had seen a wildlife preserve, and decided to stop. At least there I was sure I could see a kangaroo. And boy did I ever! Not only do you get to see them, but I also got to feed and pet several! It was great! Of course, I hear they aren’t like this out in the wild … We also saw several crocodiles, and one was HUGE! The biggest one was about 15 feet long, and was segregated from the other smaller ones. The sign over his cage said that he had killed 12 girlfriend crocodiles. Antisocial fellow, wouldn’t you say? But he was cool to look at. They also had koala bears and also some wombats. Now, before I went to Australia, I wasn’t sure I knew what a wombat was, and I still can’t say for sure, but they sure are cute. I think Steve said they were a relative of the koalas, but don’t climb trees. Instead, they dig tunnels in the ground. Now, if I could just see a duckbill-platypus … but they didn’t have any.

Thursday night, we ate at a place called Rattle & Hum, and once again had great seafood. After dinner, we moseyed back over to The Reef Casino, just for a little entertainment, and once again Steve won at the Black Jack tables! Talk about luck! Wish he could have won us an extra week in Cairns!

Friday morning, we had an early flight back to Singapore, and we both really hated to leave. Cairns was such a good experience for both of us, but as Steve always says, 'it’s best to leave while you still love it and have a longing to come back.' And I agree. I sure hope I do get to come back sometime … Australia is definitely awesome. So … until I see Australia again, I guess I’ll have to say 'Hoo-Roo' which means farewell.

Cairns, Australia - 1

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ElyseMc on October 8, 2000

On September 22nd, Steve and I left for our Australia R&R trip! This was the first time either of us had ever been to Australia, and neither of us really knew what to expect. We have had friends advise us of where to go, and heard how nice it was, but we really weren’t prepared for the wonderland that awaited us! The first choice we had was which part to visit first … We wanted to avoid Sydney this time, because of the Olympics and the crowds that would be there (living in Asia makes you learn to avoid crowds whenever possible). The decision was to be between going to Adelaide and the wine country, or to Cairns and visiting the beach area. This trip, we decided to visit the beach. And it was a great choice.

We left Nanjing on a Friday, and flew to Hong Kong. There, we spent one night at the Park Lane Hotel, since we have discovered an Outback Steakhouse right around the corner! Figured we should start this trip off right! On Saturday morning, we left Hong Kong enroute to Singapore, where we switched planes and began our flight to Cairns. Although it was only a 6 hour flight, it was an all-nighter. We left Singapore around 10 PM, and arrived in Cairns around 6:30 Sunday morning (they are two hours ahead of us in China). Steve had made arrangements to get a rental car (which wasn’t the easiest to obtain, even in Cairns, because of the Olympics), and we headed over to the Cairns Hilton which would be our home for the next 5 nights. Since neither of us had restful sleep on the plane, we both decided that a few hours sleep would be best, so we crashed. I have to admit that it was hard to get back up (around Noon-thirty), but once I was up and had a shower, I felt much better.

Once we were out and around Cairns, we found a whole new world to discover awaiting us! Not only does Cairns have about 3 malls, they even had a Target department store! You have no idea how much we miss stores like Target and Wal-Mart (since we are currently living in China) but especially Target! We were able to find, and purchase, a bread machine! Something I have been looking for in Asia ever since we moved there! Since Australia uses the same type electricity as China, we knew the bread machine would work back in Nanjing, so we grabbed it! Ask me if I was thrilled! (no need to really ask … I think you can tell) Anyway, after checking out a few other stores around the area we found out that our 'checking out' was just about over for that day. On Sundays (which is the day we arrived), all the stores close at 4:30 PM, so that was the shopping for that day. Fortunately, the restaurants stay open longer as do the tour booking agencies. And since we only had four days to play in Cairns, we decided that the sooner we decided exactly what activities and tours we wanted to take, the better off we would be time-wise. It turned out to be a good decision. We booked both tours that evening (fishing and a snorkel trip), and we were set for the week.

The first night in town found us dining at Barnacle Bill’s. It was a nice, open-aired restaurant, with a great selection of seafood. Steve ordered a fish dish in lime and chili sauce, and I ordered the fried prawns. I won. My prawns were huge, with a special sauce for dipping. On the side was a tasty fruit salad. I had already decided that I was going to like dining in Cairns!!! Ha!

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