Aussies have finished holidaying within their own country….. God only knows why. People generally blame it on the flights, becoming cheaper and cheaper to fly to (somewhat and seemingly) domestically located International destinations such as Fiji and Bali; others blame the rising cost of domestic accommodation and entertainment. When I compare costs between Bali and Cairns however, I don’t note much of a difference. I should preface the fact that I am not really a drinker and so Bintangs -v- XXXXs is left out of my equation. We live in one of the best countries on Earth, get patriotic people and explore your mainland.
5 Reasons why Cairns is so good you have to FNQ for it. (I do not own this pun).
1. The Great Barrier Reef. Typical.
The name requires no explanation, does it? It’s Great – approx. 344,400km squared in fact, it provides a Barrier – my geographical guess would be to the Continental Shelf, and it’s a Reef. So you’d be right to think its large, expansive wonderland, full of an array of marine life you are not going to see anywhere else. That must be why it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981….hmmm.
I’ve snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef 5 times now and I have to say, ignore the coral bleaching hype, the Reef just keeps getting better and better. With science advancing at rapid pace, marine biologists are really beginning to understand this beautiful water world. What we thought before was bleached and dead coral, scientists now have the perhaps pessimistic view that it is in fact just laying dormant, and reincarnating – if you like. And there is evidence of this, as you snorkel you’ll pass white and brown coral, and are pleasantly surprised by the bright almost fluorescent blue and purple branching coral. And on the plus side, the white and brown corals make the clownfish more obvious too!
We travelled to the Reef in April on the ‘Calypso Catamaran’ from Port Douglas, and I can highly recommend these guys. The crew were awesome, super welcoming, and the kiwi leader was not only a babe, but was super informative. My brother and fiancé took off and dived (they’re PADI accredited) and I snorkelled, alone. I wasn’t feeling super enthused by this prospect so the crew encouraged me. As soon as I dipped my head under the biggest Maori Wrasse fish welcomed me in, practically brushing past my cheek. The included lunch was delicious, and nothing was a hassle for these guys, not even the 25-30 knots on our way out., cheers Skipper. An awesome way to see the Reef, I’ll never go with another company again.
The boys coming back from their dive.
Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef.
Bitch, please, nips for days.
2. The Daintree Rainforest. The last list entry that is expected.
This place is one big giant green wonderland. The Daintree Rainforest is approx. 1200 square km’s, beginning at Mossman Gorge and ending along the Bloomfield Track towards Cooktown. The place is one giant feast for the senses. It smells like crisp, freshly washed linen sheets, it looks all hues of vibrant dense green, and as you walk through it you’ll notice that it sounds like one of those 90s mood CDs that plays running water and whipping birds on repeat, but in the Daintree’s case, it’s real.
On our recent trip to Cairns, we travelled up as far as Cape Tribulation to experience the ‘real’ Daintree Rainforest, and stayed at ‘PK’s Jungle Village’. The accommodation gave us great access to the beach and the rainforest, and was in the centre of ‘town’. (Town being 4 shops/convenience stores.) It also housed the main pub/bar with great Aussie pub style meals, the Chicken Parmy was to die for.
The beach 10 mins walk from our accommodation, in Cape Tribulation. Sunbake don’t swim.
Signage from our accommodation to the beach.
A local swimming hole in Cape Tribulation, in hindsight not the smartest thing we have done.
If you can’t make the trip to Cape Tribulation, be sure to check out Mossman Gorge. By far one of the best tourist attractions in FNQ. This place is tourism done right. We scoped out Mossman Gorge about 3 years ago, after seeing a documentary about the facility aired on SBS. Mossman Gorge is a FNQ landmark of high cultural significance to the local indigenous people.
At the Mossman Gorge Tourist Centre you can pay a small entrance fee and bushwalk and swim as you like. Or you can purchase a ticket on a cultural tour, led by a local indigenous elder. We took the second option and met Rodney. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a legend Rodney is, I’d be here all day, I really do encourage you to find out for yourselves. Rodney, his pride, and his knowledge will stay with me forever. Our trip to Mossman Gorge remains completely unforgettable.
Mossman Gorge – in my element.
3. Ignore TLC and CHASE THE WATERFALLS.
If you are familiar with those brown road signs that state ‘SCENIC ROUTE’ in different areas across Australia, you’re in for a treat, because NONE of those routes compare to the Waterfall Circuit just outside of Cairns.
The circuit will take you through the picturesque Atherton Tablelands. And can encompass as many or as few waterfalls and waterholes that you would like, such as Millaa Millaa Falls, Pepina Falls, Mungalil Falls, Zillie Falls, Josephine Falls, Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham. Set aside a full day to explore and swim, but be ready to share with fellow tourists during peak season, especially Millaa Millaa Falls. Don’t let it stop you, they’re all big enough to share.
A trip out to these waterfalls, holes and Tablelands is an absolute must, not only can you spend the day swimming in beautiful rainforest temperate waters, but you can feed turtles, drive through true Australian farming countryside, eat local produce and meander through cute little village shops. Some waterholes also offer other water sports such as sailing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding.
Search the following hash tags through Instagram to find some of Australia’s truest natural beauty: #millaamillaafalls #josephinefalls #pepinafalls, #mungalilfalls, #zilliefalls, #josephinefalls, #lakebarrine and #lakeeacham
(I have limited pics as my phone went for a swim at the GBR and I lost them all L)
You may recognise Millaa Millaa Falls. It was the waterfall used in the 90s Herbal Essences Promo, ah, yes, yes, oh, yes. Get your cameras ready!
4. Paronella Park – I know, you’ve never heard of it.
Paronella Park is quite literally castle ruin in a rainforest that encompasses a gigantic waterfall, that hardly anyone knows about. The best kept Australian secret, and also the most underrated poorly advertised tourist attraction ever. I can’t explain just how much love I have for this place. It is the definition of beautiful.
Located about an hours drive south of Cairns, you’ll pass through Innisfail (Bob Katter country) to get to it. Paronella Park was a mansion originally built by Jose Paronella to give to his wife. I could continue with the story but I don’t want to ruin it all for you.
It costs $44 for entry. Guided tours are conducted every 30 minutes that’ll take you around the grounds of the property, and inform you of the history as well. After that you are free to do as you please; find the crocodile (maybe don’t), feed the turtles, have lunch, run across the suspension bridge, take selfies, catch Pokémon, PLAY IN CASTLE RUINS. We spent half a day at Paronella Park, you could spend longer.
Literally, castle ruins in a rainforest.
With a waterfall.
5. Billionaires Row.
When billionaires embark on a tropical holiday, they pack their latest Camilla kaftan, Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt, Seafolly bikini and Aesop sun tan lotion and head to Port Douglas. But you don’t have to be a billionaire to love it here. This place is the shit.
Like a quaint little seaside village ripped out of a Country Style magazine, the main street is lined with bakeries, cafes and typical Queenslander pubs; all serving locally sourced organic produce, and locally brewed beers.
The Main Beach at Port Douglas is 100% lined with palm trees (and I’m talking the ones that sprout coconuts), 25% lined with stinger nets, and manned by lifeguards. It’s probably your safest beach to swim at in FNQ (as long as the mature coconuts have been removed – they do knock people out).
Main Beach – Port Douglas.
The shopping in Port Douglas is great too, the main street features many clothing and home ware boutiques, and it could easily take you ½ to a full day to meander through them all. Markets are held each and every Sunday at Anzac Park, and those coconuts that I was telling you about, are removed from the beach palms and sold fresh.
There are scenic walks, fishing, mangrove crocodile tours, ½ day and full day trips out to the reef and nearby islands (turtles!), mountain and road bike hire, sunset cruises, literally activities for all. I don’t know one person that wouldn’t love the place.
Scenic Walk from town.
On our latest trip we stayed at the Port Douglas Motel on Davidson Street. The room was clean, the bed comfortable, within walking distance to the main street and the air conditioner working. What more could you want? We ate at the Tin Shed Combined Clubs, Star of Siam Thai Restaurant, Rattle and Hum Pub, The Little Larder Café, Dave’s Takeaway (THE BEST).
A Sunset shot taken at The Tin Shed.
If you need more encouragement to visit FNQ, flights to Cairns can usually be found for around $150 each way, departing Sydney.
Alternatively, follow the ‘gram @crystaljanes_lalaland and have a stalk through my old holiday snaps.