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.)
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.
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.
- 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: