Here’s Part 2 from our Australia adventures! See Part 1 (Sydney) here. Cairns (“Cayyyens”) is 3 hours by plane from Sydney. When we landed, we Uber-ed to our hotel and checked in. By the time we were settled, it was about 1 PM. We spent most of the first day exploring, hanging out by the pool, playing giant chess and generally getting into full relaxing mode.
For the rest of our time in Cairns, we planned day trips to see different things. The city itself is not that exciting (or, wasn’t for us) but it was a great base for a lot of the natural beauty of Australia’s far north.
Day 1, we went on a tour of the Tablelands, slid down a natural rock slide at Josephine Falls, Crater Lakes National Park, and the Cathedral Fig. We were probably the oldest people on this tour (omg when did this happen to me?!) but it was still really fun.
Day 2, we had to check out the Great Barrier Reef, especially since it might be gone before we can get back to Australia. The reef is actually located quite a ways off the coast, so we took a SUPER choppy boat ride out to a pontoon. Once out there, we were given stinger suits to protect us against marine stingers – many of which are not that big a deal but some (I’m looking at you, box jellies and irukanji) can kill you. We put on a snorkel and fins and jumped in. Jan had also done some research and rented an underwater camera, which was so cool. After a while I got really cold and had to take a break, but Jan (not usually the swimmer!) loved every minute.
On our third day, we needed a break from group activities and decided to rent a car and venture out along the coast. Since Jan doesn’t have a valid driver’s license, I drove! It was my first time driving on the left side of the road – the hardest part was honestly that the turn signal was on the opposite side of the steering wheel. I kept putting on the wipers when I wanted to turn!
We checked out several beaches, including Ellis Beach (white sand and totally deserted), 4 mile beach, and some coastline along the way. Technically jellyfish season was over, but we played it safe and stayed mostly out of the water. On the way home, we also stopped at Rex lookout and watched the sunset – beautiful :).
For our last full day, we joined a tour that was a bit slow moving but let us check off a few more destinations: Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest. We also got to go on a river cruise where we saw HUGE crocodiles in the wild!
Saturday morning we were all set to go back to Sydney for our flight home, but we had one more thing to do. Jan had tried to book us a helicopter flight over the reef on the day we sailed out there, but the weather was too bad for us to take off (I’m telling you it was choppy). Because of that, the helicopter company offered to fly us out, tour us around the reef and fly us back on our last morning! We even landed on this tiny sandy cay in the middle of the ocean! It was amazing.
On our way back to Vancouver, we did have one more mini-adventure. There was a medical on our flight somewhere over the South Pacific, and since I was the only MD on board, the Air Canada flight attendants were really happy for the help. While I was sorting it out (nothing critical), Jan got a cheese plate and a glass of port (one happy Belgian), and back in Vancouver, I got some AC goodies and a gift card as a thank you. I appreciated the gesture! Thanks, AC.