Two Weeks in Australia
I recently spent two weeks in Australia. While it was late July, it was winter in Australia, meaning that flights were reasonably priced. Most of my two weeks were spent in Sydney, where I was lucky enough to have free lodging courtesy of a friend transferred to Sydney for work. In Sydney, winter means temperatures of fifty to sixty degrees and a good amount of rain.
In need of a warm spot, I headed up north to Cairns (pronounced Cannes) and Port Douglas, Queensland. It is a 3-hour flight from Sydney to Cairns. Port Douglas is an hour drive north of Cairns. Since stinger season (think giant jellyfish) in the summer months makes it dangerous to venture into the water, Australian winter is the perfect time to visit. The temperature was perfect – high seventies and low eighties with a nice ocean breeze.
I spent one day snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is located about a 2-hour boat ride from the coast. Many companies departing from both Cairns and Port Douglas offer full day boat excursions including meals, snorkeling and scuba gear, and tutorials. While the trips are pricey, they are definitely worthwhile. The reef is truly a wonder of the world! I was terrified to scuba dive since I had never done it before, but I soon discovered that my fear was unwarranted. Queensland law restricts introductory divers to a maximum diving depth of 12 meters (about 40 feet) and requires introductory divers to be no more than an arm’s length away from their instructor. I literally held onto my instructor’s hand the entire time! If you can’t bear the thought of being underwater for a half hour, you can still have an amazing experience snorkeling.
Queensland law restricts introductory divers to a maximum diving depth of 12 meters (about 40 feet) and requires introductory divers to be no more than an arm’s length away from their instructor. I literally held onto my instructor’s hand the entire time!
The picture above shows me playing with a wallaby at a zoo in Port Douglas. The zoo had a large area with wallabies and kangaroos roaming about with no cages or fences. I even got to see a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch! Later that day, I went on a tour of the Daintree Rainforest. This is the only place in the world where two natural wonders (the rainforest and the reef) are side by side, so take advantage! The views are truly incredible.
During my two weeks in Australia, I was surprised to find out that there is no beach in Cairns, even though it is a coastal town. While there is an esplanade with shops and cafes along the waterfront, everything shuts down very early. Don’t venture out alone past 10 pm. I would suggest skipping Cairns and heading straight to Port Douglas from the airport. Port Douglas had a true beach-town feel and while it is a bit fancier and more expensive than Cairns, it’s definitely a better spot for a relaxing getaway. I spent the final day of my trip in Far North Queensland at Port Douglas’s 4-mile Beach, which was gorgeous and clean. You can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas for a reasonable rate. If you’re in Port Douglas on a Sunday morning, be sure to check out the markets located on the bay-side of Macrossan Street, where you will find everything from exotic fruits to hand-carved boomerangs.