Our Journey to Australia Part IV: Adventures in Cairns!

To get caught up on our entire journey, you can find all parts of our Australia adventure below!

Our Journey to Australia Part I: The Park Hyatt Sydney for Families

Our Journey to Australia Part II: Sydney with Kids!

Our Journey to Australia Part III: The Australian Outback and Uluru

Our Journey to Australia Part IV: Adventures in Cairns!

Our Journey to Australia Part V: Hamilton Island

 

In retrospect, we would have chosen to spend a little more time in Cairns. We really liked the city even though we only got to see a little bit of it. It’s not a very large city, but it’s right on the water, has great public areas, and a seemingly very friendly population. I mean any city with an esplanade and two New Year’s firework celebrations so that the kids can participate has to be cool, right?

On New Year’s Eve, there was a concert right next to our hotel that was free to everyone. We don’t know who the band was, but they did well covering lots of popular tunes. It was very child friendly even though our kids were exhausted. Bottom line, I wish we had had more time there and if we ever make it back to Australia, it will definitely be on our destination list.

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New Year’s Eve Concert in the Park

But our short time in Cairns was taken up with two awesome excursions. On the day we arrived into Cairns from Uluru, there had been torrential down pours. It had stopped raining by the time we arrived, but the standing water was evidence of what had occurred earlier in the day. And we were quite concerned about how that was going to affect our snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef the next day.

We chose to take the Ocean Free tour that included a sail to Green Island and were happy with our choice. Arriving at the pier, you see lots of large boats that clearly aim to maximize the number of people that they ferry between Cairns and the reef. Our boat was tiny by comparison and the members of our group with weak stomaches were more than a little concerned. But the reason we chose this tour was because of the size. The total number of passengers the boat accommodates is 25 (of which we were 10). I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of snorkeling with 100 strangers…

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Check Out the Catamaran in the Background!

And once we were on our way, it was clear that the size of the boat was not going to be a factor for sea sickness that day. Not one passenger got ill, however, it was pretty calm, especially when compared to the day earlier. Apparently the day before was the first time that the tour ever had to be cut short. The rain and winds were simply too much to be comfortable and safe so they had had to turn back. Luck was on our side. I would have been really bummed out if we had missed our tour due to weather.

The motoring out to their mooring spot was about an hour and a half. Refreshments were provided (although sodas had to be purchased). It didn’t drag on too long and the kids were quite patient. Once we got there, we were given plenty of time to snorkel and one of the members of the crew showed everyone “around.” It was helpful as he knew where the best snorkeling was.

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Ready to Sail!

Lunch was served after about an hour and was delicious. I wasn’t a fan of the meat, but the salads and sides were amazing. I think I went back for seconds… I heard that the desserts were great too (I’m not a dessert person, well, other than ice cream). After lunch we explored nearby Green Island which was mobbed. In retrospect, I would have given that excursion a miss although the ice cream on the island was tasty.

Upon returning to the boat, we were able to snorkel one more time before starting our sail back. Apparently they use their motor on the way out and try to sail for part of the return… It was quite enjoyable (minus the Justin Beiber that was played over and over and over… But it appeared that most people enjoyed the music). Drinks and cheese were served on the return although several of us slept through that…

Overall, the staff was top notch. I loved the small crowd that was with us and would not have enjoyed a catamaran experience. The time it took to get out there and back was a bit lengthy at 1.5 hours but it was smooth and plenty of refreshments were provided.

Before we knew it, we were back to the pier which was only a 10 minute walk from the Hilton. After getting dressed, we headed to the lounge for some drinks and appetizers. They let the 10 of us use the Boardroom which was great since the lounge is small and was packed. The intent was to just get something to tide us over until dinner, but some of the offerings were tasty and most of us filled up to the point where we didn’t need dinner.

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Our “Boardroom” Snacks

Even though we were exhausted, we got ourselves together to attempt to enjoy the New Year’s Eve festivities. We stumbled upon the aforementioned concert which was great. And strolled upon the esplanade for a bit. But, we couldn’t do it. Just. Too. Tired. And the fact that we had a view of where the fireworks would be going off from our balcony was just too enticing to head back to the room. Three members of our quartet fell asleep within minutes. I managed to stay up until the 9pm “kids” fireworks and then woke back up for the midnight ones… Not the most exciting New Year’s Eve, but that was fine with us.

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Love!

The next morning, we headed to the rainforest to enjoy the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and then to take the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway up to the village of Kuranda. The Cultural Park was awesome. There was a great show to start our tour which explained how the tribes worked and what shaped them (hint – fire and water). We then moved into a dance exhibition which showcased the different dances of the tribe. We then moved onto a food and medicine presentation, followed by a spear and boomerang demonstration.

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Didgeridoo and Dance Demonstration

It all was fascinating, kept the kids interest, and was something I’d definitely recommend. During the spear and boomerang demonstration, the kids participated in boomerang painting, necklace making, and bracelet weaving. They loved it all. The only downside was waiting for the boomerang paint to dry. They offered to hold them for us, but we weren’t coming back that way so we had to take the boomerangs with us, wet paint and all!

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Intense Concentration

After the Cultural Park, we headed up the Skyrail, over the rainforest. This isn’t for the faint of heart. I don’t like heights and this was not a highlight for me. The kids loved it, but I was very nervous the entire time. We arrived into the village of Kuranda and spent a few hours exploring. Some went to the Koala Gardens while we made our way to a local restaurant for lunch and some shopping. It was a cute village.

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The Kids Enjoyed the Ride. Me, Not So much.

Our day culminated with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. It was an old train and the ride down the mountain was enjoyable. The train was quite crowded but there was commentary on it’s history as we made our way through the rainforest. The kids played with one another. I fell asleep. Something about moving vehicles and a breeze…

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Riding Through the Rainforest

Before we knew it, we were back at the bottom boarding our bus to be dropped back in Cairns. We ended up getting off more in the middle of town to have dinner at Outback Jack’s. It was our last night as a group of ten so it was a great way to cap off our trip together. My sister and her family were headed to Hong Kong the next day and we were headed to Hamilton Island. Dinner was good and it was off to bed quickly as we had an early flight the next morning to the Island.

Overall, our time in and around Cairns was great. Both tours were excellent and we loved the city. If only we could have had a little more time…

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