Australia is somewhere i’ve never had the opportunity of visiting. The athletics season begins during our winter months – the opposite time of year to our European racing season. With Gold Coast hosting the 2018 Commonwealth Games, it was my first chance to get a taste of what Australia had to offer! I was determined to squeeze as much as I could into two days. Yes, you read that right… TWO days. So hold onto your hats and get ready for an action packed itinerary for a spectacular bucket list trip to Cairns!
With one of the seven natural wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef – being high up on my bucket list; Cairns was the perfect location. Situated on the east coast of Far North Queensland, it has great access to both the Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforests. With cheap flights to and from other regions of Australia, we were able to schedule a short trip from Gold Coast to Cairns and finishing in Sydney for under £200.
We arrived early morning before check in but Cairns Harbour Lights Hotel allowed us to dump our bags and head straight out to explore. The hotel is in a PERFECT location for those on a tight time-frame. Situated only 10-15 minutes from the airport and right on the harbour next to the Reef Terminal where the majority of boat tours depart. It also had a great selection of restaurants nearby which we certainly took advantage of! A few of them allow you to order from your room without leaving the comfort of your bed! The gym looks out onto a beautiful outdoor pool area with awesome views over the town.
Our first day was spent exploring the rainforest, surrounding the hinterland town of Kuranda. We took the Skyrail Cableway which was like something from a fairytale. Gliding just a few metres above the pristine rainforest canopy of Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest. The first stop – Red Peak – took us through the canopy layers and deep
into the forest by boardwalk. Just seconds after we took a picture, at one of the scenic lookout points – we came across a huge python! You certainly don’t see any of those knocking about in Scotland! The second stop was Barron Falls Station which had the most stunning views of the Barron Gorge National Park.
The final destination was the small town of Kuranda, a unique rainforest village. There are numerous activities to do within this one little town and loads of lovely little cafes to grab a bite to eat. With our tight schedule we managed to squeeze in a visit to a few things but you could easily spend a full day or two in Kuranda at a leisurely pace.
Koala Gardens gives you the opportunity to get your picture with one of Australia’s favourite little fur balls! There are also some kangaroos and wallabies knocking around for you to feed but thankfully the crocs are kept a little further away… Walking through the BirdWorld aviary, we saw the most wonderfully coloured birds from all over the world. Feeding my small feathered friends was certainly an experience to remember but be wary of the big macaws – they aren’t as gentle!
As a child, I was always trying to catch butterflies but they certainly weren’t as exotic as the ones we saw in The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. Beautiful colours and
patterns. The place was filled with thousands of butterflies, 20,000 to be exact, floating elegantly through the sanctuary. It is actually the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in the Southern Hemisphere.
Top tip – Be sure to wear something bright as the butterflies mistake the colour for flowers, which presents some brilliant photo opportunities. Wearing bright yellow, I felt like the butterfly whisperer!
We were looking forward to taking the Kuranda Scenic Railway Train on the way back but unfortunately it was closed for maintenance works! Most people take the SkyRail one way and the Kuranda train for the return – a great way to take in all the sights!
Unfortunately for our second day, the weather gods weren’t on our side but the rain certainly couldn’t dampen our spirits! We headed to the Reef Terminal which was about a two minute walk from the hotel to board our boat to the Great Barrier Reef. Passions of Paradise were looking after us for the day and they certainly lived up to their name. It certainly was paradise and snorkelling the reef was awesome. The first half of the morning we spent snorkelling and then for the afternoon we were given an introductory lesson into scuba diving! Scuba diving was something that initially terrified me but the instructors were brilliant and made me feel really calm throughout my lesson. Lunch was served on the boat with a fully stocked bar too. Thankfully the sun eventually appeared to top off a spectacular day out at sea. Truly once in a lifetime.
We grabbed brunch in Bang and Grind which was only a small walk into town. The food was brilliant and Michael claimed the coffee was the best in Australia… if that isn’t a raving review then I don’t know what is! My favourite meal of the entire trip was at nearby restaurant Dundee’s. With Dundee being the name of my hometown you can imagine I was suitably embarrassing, taking multiple selfies outside the sign! The food was DEVINE. I recommend ordering ‘Taste of the Sea’ – an absolute boat load of gorgeous sea food of which neither me nor Michael could finish! Our final night was spent at Ochre Restaurant which is a modern Australian cuisine. With kangaroo and bugtail on the menu, we had the chance to taste some of the countries top delicacies.
Traveller tip – Every evening as the sun sets, huge bats appear across the skies. It is truly one of the craziest things i’ve ever witnessed! Get your Instagram ready for this!
I took a break from running but there were some beautiful running routes nearby that we went walking along (…well, I had to burn off all that food somehow!) There was also an athletics track just over a mile from the harbour. For all ParkRun enthusiast, one takes place every Saturday 7am starting on the Cairns Esplanade.
What else is there to explore?
- Tour Daintree Rainforest – this is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. Be sure to book a tour and check it out!
- Visit Green Island – A sand island only 45minutes from Cairns. Great place to snorkel, relax on the beach or walk through the forest boardwalk. Also hosts the World’s largest Croc – Cassius!
- Swim at the Lagoon – Crystal clear waters, beach views and life guards; what’s not to love?
- Shop at the Night Markets – 70 plus shops with souvenirs, indigenous craft, clothing and a great food court.
Cairns Travel Tips
- Pack your rain jacket – the weather can be a little temperamental with frequent rain storms but they never last long.
- Bring an underwater camera – you can hire one on some of the bigger boat tours which is great and gives you another option rather than paying for the official pictures but the easiest way is to bring your own!
- Buy a combined attraction ticket – In Kuranda, this is a great way to save some pennies.
View my Cairns Travel Vlog here:
*Sponsored Post in association with Tropical North Australian Tourism Board*
Cairns Harbour Hotel – www.harbourlights.com.au