From Uluru we took a plane flight up to Cairns. Okay, technically we flew back down to Sydney, and then connected to Cairns due to the always sensible airline pricing. Buttt, we saved one of the best stops for last! While we were there we visited a Rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef, and toured the surrounding cities on the north shore!
From Cairns (locals seem to say ‘Cans’) we rented a car to explore the surrounding area for a couple of days. We were amazed with the scenery that the area had to offer!
- Cairns – Cairns is a small town that sits right on the north coast of Australia. It provides the feeling of a true beach town with its quirky downtown shops, raised wooden boardwalks, beachy motels, public pools on the waterfront, and beautiful scenery. The waterfront comes alive at night as the restaurants fill up and everyone strolls down the boardwalk.
- Cape Tribulation – Once we picked up our rental car our first stop was heading up the coast to explore Cape Tribulation. This area is known for being the only place where two world heritage sites meet: the Daintree Rain Forest and the Great Barrier Reef. We spent the day exploring the rain forest, and it was an absolutely incredible experience. We did a couple short hikes in several different parts of the forest and got to see some truly spectacular flora and fauna.
- Casowerie Sightings! – We were also on the lookout for another unique creature (possibly Andy’s favorite part of traveling) called the Casowerie. These birds are massive creatures, a bit like an ostrich or emu, but just a bit shorter. Thankfully we were fortunate enough to spot three! The first we saw during one of our forest hikes, and we made sure to keep our distance (countless signs informed us the birds are considered to be unpredictable and dangerous). The second and third were a mother/child pair that we spotted from the road. Sadly we were unable to snap clear photos of any of them due to the distance and density of the rain forest.
- Beaches – We also visited several beaches in Daintree Rain Forest and the countless small towns down the coast. The beaches were incredibly beautiful, but, apparently, a bit treacherous. We had heard of some of the dangers in Australia before we visited, but signs like those in the below picture left us with no doubts. They were posted all up and down the beaches and informed visitors of the dangers that lurked all around us. Many sign were also accompanied by a bottle of vinegar stating that it was unsafe to go into the water and to apply the vinegar generously if you or someone happened to be stung by a stinger (jellyfish). There were also often recent croc sightings at each of the beaches, so try to not get eaten by one of those either! (You have to love Australia!)
- Great Barrier Reef – Countless tourist flock to Cairns and the surrounding towns each year to have access to some of the best adventures that Great Barrier Reef has to offer. We actually opted travel an hour and a half north to Port Douglas for our trek to the acclaimed Agincourt part of the GBR! We were told from a number of locals that Agincourt was one of the best places to visit, and it did not disappoint! The day to visit the GBR had finally arrived, and the weather was perfect leaving the water quite clear! After an hour or so ride out to the ribbon reefs (sea sickness pills were definitely taken), we dressed head-to-toe in lycra suits, which look a lot like wet suits, but in this case were meant to protect us from stingers (jellyfish). The company we booked with took us to three different spots on the reef, and each one was unique and truly spectacular. We saw so many different things during our day trip including a GIANT clam, cuddle fish, HUGE sea cucumbers, tonnnss of coral, and more fish than we could ever count. What a fun day!
- ‘Roo Sightings? – When coming to Australia one of the major things that we wanted to see was a kangaroo! We were told by all of the locals not to worry, that we would definitely see kangaroos when we were driving around the country. Most even told us that they had roos in their backyard on a regular basis. Going into week three in our Australian adventure, we became a little distrusting of the locals, and even on some occasions jokingly asked if we could visit the roos that frequented their own backyard. So, on our last day with the car after visiting a local mountain town near Cairns, we decided to take matters into our own hands. After a quick search on the internet we began to hunt for kangaroos in the large fields of the surrounding communities. After about an hour (and almost giving up) we hit the jackpot, and found at least 100 small roos in a large field at the edge of town. Andy could not stop smiling!
- Elise’s Birthday! – Elise’s birthday fell on the day that we traveled from Australia to NEW ZEALAND! While going to New Zealand was a gift all on its own, we did celebrate a day or two earlier by trying out some of the local delicacies including kangaroo meat and hanging out on a local beach. Not too shabby of a birthday!