Five Nights in Queensland, Australia

March 3, 2018

I decided to share our four days in Queensland, Australia in August of 2002. Yes, that was a long time ago and yes, my memory is a little foggy. I always keep a travel journal on our adventures, so I am able to piece together the trip in some detail, but this post will admittedly not go into as much detail as my other destination posts. I will make up for that lack of detail by adding a few more pictures than I usually post. (Also note that digital cameras were fairly new back then, so while the digital photo quality is not as impeccable as you see now, you’ll get the general idea of how beautiful this trip really was.)

(FYI, the details from our entire two-week trip to Australia and New Zealand can be found here.)

Our Itinerary

After looking at the options for seeing natural wonders (and there were a lot of options), we went with the following itinerary. We spent all five nights in Cairns as our base, in order to see:

  • Cape Tribulation,
  • The Great Barrier Reef,
  • A wildlife reserve in Port Douglas, and
  • “The outback.”

For those not familiar with the geography in Australia and New Zealand, none of these locations is close to the others. Melbourne is about 1,800 miles from Cairns. That’s 300 miles longer than the distance from Florida to Maine. And New Zealand is a 4.5 hour flight from Cairns. We knew we were going to be spending a decent amount of our two weeks in transit. But those were the areas we wanted to see, so that was the sacrifice we made.

Ground Transportation

We rented a vehicle in Cairns. My husband did all the driving. This was an adventure, driving on the wrong side of the road for us, with the steering wheel of the vehicle also on the wrong side of the car for us. A few unforeseen difficulties arose, but he got used to it eventually.


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We were excited to spend five nights in the same hotel in Cairns, rather than hotel hopping every night. Cairns is the jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef, and the warm, tropical climate was lovely. Our view from our hotel was stunning.

The next day we took a drive to Cape Tribulation. It was a long drive with a lot of curves and big speed bumps, but look at that view.

On our third day in Cairns, well, we just needed a day to catch up. We did laundry, went shopping, and ran errands. And that was it. No guilt. It was just what we needed in order to recharge mid-trip.

Great Barrier Reef

We went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef on our fourth day in Queensland. What an amazing experience! Based on recommendations we’d gotten before the trip, we took a Tusa boat, and it was a good choice. It wasn’t as big as some of the other tour boats. The boat ride to the reef was about 1.5 hours, I believe. We used a disposable underwater camera, and the pictures turned out pretty great. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten the pictures translated to digital, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it. We both went out snorkeling early on in the boat ride, and then I went by myself later. I came back to find my husband on the deck reading a book while three beautiful Italian women were sunbathing around him. Hmmm… 🙂

Nature Reserve and “The Outback”

On our final day in Queensland we decided we should try to actually see some of Australia’s famous wildlife. We’d only seen road-killed kangaroos and wallabies up to that point. So our first stop was at a wildlife sanctuary in Port Douglas. We saw kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles, emus, koalas, cassowaries, and all kinds of native wildlife. Even though we had to pay to see Aussie wildlife, we were glad we did.

Next, since my husband was itching to see “the outback,” we decided to drive inland from the coast to see what we could find. Turns out that you don’t have to drive very far away from the coast to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. I believe we only drove in about 60 miles. We found ourselves in the Atherton Tablelands area, and the roads were gravel and washboarded. We saw termite mounds and vast open spaces with nothing, I mean nothing, out there.



  • Traveling in winter was definitely great for keeping down tourist traffic on our trip. However, the biggest downside was that our days ended very early. It would have been nice to have early evening time to explore some more, but it was too dark to do so.
  • A note on the exchange rate: I didn’t write down our exchange in New Zealand, but it wasn’t quite as good as when we were in Australia. When we went in 2002, the exchange rate was $1 US = $2 Australian. As of the writing of this post, the current exchange rate is $1 US = $1.28 Australian. So we were able to get much more lodging, food, fuel, and souvenirs for our dollar than we could if we took that trip today.

Interesting Facts:

  • Before we left, we brought a Kodak disposable camera from the US. It turns out it would have been cheaper to buy the same disposable camera–made by an American company–in Cairns, which is a really touristy town. Go figure.
  • According to my journal, we had to pay for ketchup in Australian restaurants. Go figure.

If you find this post useful, check out World is Wide’s other destination posts from our travel bucket list:

Our Family’s Travel Bucket List



  • Reply
    April 18, 2018 at 3:03 am

    This looks like a nice retreat to unwind for several days!
    I liked the fact that you mentioned the exchange rates between the 2 countries!
    Honestly, I never thought about doing it, but thanks to you, I will pay more attention to this from now on ^_^

    • Reply
      April 18, 2018 at 5:57 am

      The exchange rate makes such a difference! My first time in Europe it was much worse than my 2nd and 3rd, for example. 🙂 It’s nice to know how much your dollar can get you. 🙂

  • Reply
    Adrenaline Romance
    April 18, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Beautiful! Being close to the Great Barrier Reef, this state is definitely one of our must-visit destinations. It would be a dream come true to dive in the Great Barrier Reef for us. It would also be very nice to hike and explore part of the Australian outback. 🙂

    • Reply
      April 19, 2018 at 6:26 am

      The GBR was one of my favorite travel experiences! Sadly it is declining, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do it soon if you are going to go. :-/

  • Reply
    Amrita Sen
    April 19, 2018 at 1:54 am

    A trip in 2002! thats more than 15 years. Loved reading your post. The place must have changed a lot by now. Its great that you keep a travel journal. I think this is a habit that I should also inculcate. I tend to forget details of my 2 years old trips even.
    And Kodak cameras! They were quite handy during those days,

    • Reply
      April 19, 2018 at 6:25 am

      I know, it was a long time ago. I keep good enough journal notes that it made it relatively easy to remember the basics of the trip. And the fact that it was such an amazing trip made it easier to remember as well. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 19, 2018 at 5:39 am

    I love nature reserves! I would like to visit this one! 🙂 Australia is on my list for a long time now. And the fact that you need to pay for ketchup in Australian restaurants – yep I already heard that. But, we always learn something new on our journey 🙂

    • Reply
      April 19, 2018 at 6:23 am

      It’s lovely! I hope you get there.

  • Reply
    Becca Talbot
    April 20, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Wow, this looks like paradise! I have yet to visit Australia, but I hope to venture to that side of the world one day. Can’t believe you had to pay for ketchup in restaurants though – that’s a bit tight haha! What about mayo? x

    • Reply
      April 20, 2018 at 9:25 am

      I don’t eat mayo, so I’m not sure, but I’m guessing you pay. 🙂 Someone told me you still have to pay for ketchup in Australia. Maybe tomatoes don’t grow there, so all the ketchup is exported?

  • Reply
    April 20, 2018 at 11:07 am

    That is definitely a lot of travel while traveling. Sounds like one of our trips. That is a giant termite mound. I think it would be nice to drive around the outback but I think we would probably not go to far for fear of getting lost. We would definitely make sure to dive the great barrier reef while we go there as well.

    • Reply
      April 20, 2018 at 11:15 am

      My husband wants to drive across Australia through the outback! I am not in favor of this plan. 🙂

  • Reply
    Epepa Travel Blog
    April 21, 2018 at 2:40 am

    I really like the beach in the picture. There are no hotels around it, only nature surrounds it. I always look for such places. I would love to visit Austria, maybe someday …

    • Reply
      April 21, 2018 at 6:47 am

      Thanks! Yes, Cape Tribulation is a national park, I believe, so no hotels. Beautiful. 🙂

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