In mid-January I travelled up to tropical North Queensland’s in the middle of their wet season. And to travel interstate again feels like a blessing after the two mega lockdowns in Victoria. While we can’t go overseas just yet the best place to go is Cairns the capital of North Queensland. Which is known for being a big tourist city, even though it’s my second time up (first time solo backpacking when I was 18 in 2017) I wanted to know how different it is in the Covid safe world we live in, so this begs the question what was it like?
It was strange to go back to the airport, the last time I went was in February 2020 when I went to New Zealand. It wasn’t as big of a ghost town as I thought, people are still traveling interstate, so Australian tourism is alive! But still a hollow shell of what it was a year and a half ago. It is now a MUST to wear a mask at the airport and on a flight. It does make sleeping on the flight a little harder. The flight from Melbourne airport to Cairns was a straight flight up and three hours long. They are so far apart that they have different time zones.
Cairns to Port Douglas:
When arriving in Cairns it was 8am and we went to get our rental car. We choose to rent a convertible Jeep Wrangler, it did cost little extra, but we wanted the convertible, it is The Tropics after all. After we got the car, we headed to Port Douglas, on the Captain Cook highway which is a scenic costal road right off The Great Barrier Reef. Which is up there with the Great Ocean Road. While driving down the highway there is a lot to see including the Gatz Balancing Rocks. Where people have balanced a whole heap of rocks on top of each other just off the coast, it was an unexpected surprise to find whilst driving. It also wouldn’t be a coastal drive without a lockout point. It was called the Rex look out point of the Wangetti beach.
An hour and a half north from Cairns, what is known for its four-mile beach, five-star resorts, with its laid-back vibe, and being an hour offshore from The Great Barrier Reef. While I was there, I spent one night and just chilled and had a laid-back time. But on the second day we went on a half day fishing charter. This cost $120 per-person for four hours and while fishing I caught half a dozen classic reef fish; these fish are smarter than your usual fish and bite off all the bait at rapid speed. I had never gone through bait quicker in my life when fishing. Before leaving Port Douglas the last place I went to was the Rex Smeal Park which I would recommend going to, as it has a big park area for a nice picnic and looks out over the bay, and the best part … its free.
Daintree Rain Forest:
One of the most exciting places I wanted to see was the Daintree rain forest. Which is a Unesco World Heritage-listed rainforest. It is around 1,200 square kilometres making it the largest rain forest in Australia. As it being a rainforest it was full of trees so high, you're lucky to see clear daylight. Driving a convertible car was something else and had a magic feeling to it. At the begging of the rainforest there is the Daintree village which is a-little town with a population of over 100 people, one main street, a cafe, hotel, and a place to book tours. Also, a boat ramp to the Daintree river and a sign just casually saying not a good idea going for a swim you might die, you know, there’s crocodiles in the river. But the thing that took my eye was out the front of one of the shops. What it was, was weird art junk including an old 1950s style car but with forks as handles, and statues of Vietnamese man around a sign.
While driving in the forest we stopped at every Lookout point there was, we found the best one was the Mount Alexandra Lookout. You can see the rainforest connect to the Great Barrier Reef. Fun fact the Daintree Rain Forrest and the Great Barrier Reef are the only two Unesco sites that connect to each other. The rainforest is so full on, that when you stop and actually look at the trees you will see that even little plants are growing over each other, survival of the fittest. Traveling up to Cape Tribulation you must get a ferry across the river, which was $25 return trip, there are no bridges.
Cape Trib is the end of the sealed road up the Daintree, the town is known for its laid-back vibes and hikes around the forest. But it was the wet season so going for a hike wasn’t really that appealing, and our rental car didn’t allow as to drive on dirt roads. But even though it was quite and laid back when I went, I have the feeling there will be more of a buzz in July, Peak season, and I will be back to see that.
Cairns is the largest and most known city up north with a population of over 150,000. It is most known for being a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and its big tourism business, from hostels for backpackers to luxury hotels. There is so much to do in Cairns, museums, skydiving, zip-lines, reef tours etc. While this was my second time up here, I just spent it enjoying the views, going to waterfalls, freshwater lakes and more.
Australian Armour & Artillery Museum:
One thing I didn’t expect to go to while I was in Cairns was an armour museum and it surprised me; it is definitely worth seeing! In the museum there was heaps of tanks from the First World War up to present day, including the UK, Russian, German, American and Australian tanks. There was also unused prototype from the Australian army which was cool to see.
Cairns Botanic Gardens:
While up there I also went to the botanic gardens. What can I say? Every city has one and they're enjoyable you get to walk around looking at plants and animal and the one in Cairns didn’t disappoint. There was a lot of plants to look at and it was also free to go visit and it’s a good thing to do and relax whilst nursing a hangover.
While this is my second time up, I enjoyed it just as much as the first from going up the Daintree and relaxing and Cairns even though I didn’t do the adrenaline junkie activities, I enjoyed it and going up to Cairns there is something for every traveller from backpacker to big luxury hotels. If you’re stuck in Australia and want to travel and can’t go overseas, I highly recommend going to Cairns.
As always The Travel Story Society would like to say a massive thank you to our guest blogger, Will. Matty actually met Will in WalkAbout Cardiff, an Australian Nightclub in the Welsh capital. They met when Will was travelling Europe and Matty was at university and they decided they wanted to collaborate together on something in the nightclub. What was probably a drunken idea has now come to fruition so Matty is really happy about that! Will has a great YouTube Channel which focuses mainly on his comedic stylings, but also features a lot of his travels so check it out, Will Lad. He also has an Instagram, which is @will_the_lad, where lots of his travel photos end up and is also worth checking out.
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