The lure of the tropics – palm trees, waterfalls, rainforest, rapids… we all have our daydreams. Cairns, in the north of Queensland, Australia, can fulfill them all and more.
The colours will delight you, both above and under the water, for you cannot go to Cairns without doing a tour to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 wonders of the natural world. Rapidly deteriorating, you had better make tracks if you want to see it at all. We have noticed a decline in the state of rainforests, too, as global warming reduces the rainfall to the area. So get to the Daintree Rainforest on the next day.
There are activities for young families and older ones and, depending on the time of the year, plenty of beach or pool space. Tours to the Great Barrier Reef leave from Cairns or Port Douglas and accommodation is plentiful in both. When the children were younger, Cairns was a good spot to stay, as the Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort (part of the BIG4 group) was outstanding. It had transport, bouncing pillows, putt-putt golf, tennis, evening cinema, aqua aerobics, and the list goes on. It is a holiday in itself!
My preference, now, is to stay in Port Douglas, hiring a car if we fly in. The town is quaint and small, with most things accessible by walking about 30 minutes or less. Caravan parks, motels and hotels are plentiful and the scenery picturesque. The local beaches are good in the right season, but check where the rivers are, as crocs are prolific.
The Barrier Reef tours vary in length so do some research to see what you want. Most take a while to get out to the reef, so if you suffer sea sickness, take tablets or if it’s calm, sit out on the deck. You can enter the water using snorkelling gear, as a diver or in a glass-bottom boat and viewing ‘submarines’ often do a quick tour, enabling you to take dry photos and see the waterlife without swimming. There is entertainment, food and wetsuits and gear provided. The only thing you have to work on is not opening your mouth in a wide ‘Oh’ as the fish dart up to you, multi-coloured and -specied. At the time we went, Wally the Wrass was the favourite frequent visitor. A wrass is an extremely large black fish with over-wide lips, that doesn’t eat people. My photos do not do justice to what you will see and experience.
I would recommend white water rafting for the ‘over 10’, as it is exhilarating, reasonably priced and gives amazing views. I don’t have any photos, given the nature of the activity and my amateur status, but google the Tully River adventures. Quad bike trails are for anyone and can take you through some nice landscapes.
There is bungee jumping near the Daintree, but I prefer to do the walks through this world heritage site. You have to pass Mossman Gorge and there are beautiful, accessible walks and tracks, here. Both sites have excellent information facilities and at Daintree we opted for the audio tour. Incredibly lush scenery. You will find all sorts of odd seedpods, insects, fungi and wildlife. You can even test the waters in the Mossman River.
Mossman Gorge has good walkways, suitable for wheelchairs and they use recycled material that will not have an adverse effect on the environment. It is non-slip as well, which is important in the tropics. The Daintree visitor centre is managed by the Aboriginal people of the area and they will let you know what areas are restricted so that the local people are respected.
A visit to Kuranda by train and maybe the chair lift is very nice for some village charm and a taste of history. The train is an old steamer and passes through great areas, stopping to view a waterfall at Barron Gorge (I think). Relaxing and well-priced, it is a good way to see some of the thousands of species of flora.
There is plenty of colour to be had in the region and its plants.
We travelled there in 2005 and 2012 and it is time to go again! There are lovely stops by the water, such as Ellis Beach Bar and Grill, but do be careful, as crocodiles have been seen.
Safe travels. Take a hat and water and your swimming gear.