I’d been wanting to visit Tropical North Queensland for years and living in Brisbane it was on my list before I left.
So with the weather moving into dry season and a new job on the horizon, I planned a trip with my mum before moving home.
I always wanted to stay in Port Douglas but upon doing some research on the day tours and sights we wanted to see, I found there were certain tours that were best departing from Cairns and others from Port Douglas so we split our time between the two to reduce travel times.
We spent the first three nights in Cairns. I met mum there on Easter Sunday and we started with brunch at Salt House on the marina – mum had flown in on the red eye and I flew early morning so by the time we met up we were in dire need of an energy boost.
We were then ready to explore. We walked along Cairns Marlin Marina and Cairns Esplanade which has a range of public art and the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon – a swimming pool in the heart of the city free of the stingers and crocodiles that you might find in the Coral Sea.
We made our way to Cairns Aquarium, and explored the sea, creek, river, reef, rainforest and mangrove creatures of the Tropical North.
It was time for check-in and mother to have a nanna nap so I took the opportunity to relax by the pool!
We had Easter dinner at Dundee’s at the Cairns Aquarium, which recently opened. We were lucky to be seated right in front of the aquarium and enjoyed dinner with a glass of prosecco.
The next day we were up for an 8.20am pick up for our day trip to Kuranda – a village in the rainforest. We went up by Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and there were two forced stops along the way at Red Peak Station and Barron Falls Station before arriving at Kuranda Station.
Red Peak Station has a boardwalk to follow around the rainforest and lookout over the horizon.
At the Barron Falls Station you can see the falls from an above see-through viewing platform.
Once we arrived in Kuranda we went for a walk through the village which was quite touristy with souvenir and jewellery (specifically pearl and opal) shops. Mum picked out a nice pearl bracelet for Mother’s Day and we enjoyed a walk around the Kuranda Original Rainforest Market gardens. You can also pay to visit the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Birdworld Kuranda and Kuranda Koala Gardens.
We went back towards Kuranda Station to catch the Kuranda River Boat for a cruise along the Barron River. It’s $20 per adult and you can pay cash onboard or pre-book online with a small booking fee. I recommend pre-booking as our time slot was full.
On the 45-minute boat cruise we saw freshwater crocodiles which are quite small and not interested in humans (thankfully), turtles, dragons, fish and birds.
We took the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns in Gold Class, stopping at Barron Falls Railway Station along the way which had a nicer view of the falls.
The afternoon Gold Class experience included macadamia nuts, a Gallo Dairyland cheese platter and mango ice-cream alongside a choice of beer, wine, sparkling, coffee, tea, juice or soft drink.
With Kuranda you can choose to go up with the cableway and back with the railway or vice versa, or you can go up and back with the same transport. I recommend experiencing one of each to really experience the full beauty of the rainforest and the falls.
We went to Fitzroy Island the next day to explore the inner reef, which was 45 minutes by ferry from Cairns with Raging Thunder. You can definitely spend a full day there and not have time for everything so I recommend booking the 9am-4pm ferry to give you the longest time range unless you have time to stay the night.
We bought an Activity 1 Pass package which included the glass bottom boat. There were options to include snorkelling and a packed lunch also. The pass included complimentary stinger suits and use of the stand up paddle boards and canoes on the island. I didn’t expect stinger season to still be around but the season seems to run into May!
We started our time on the island with a hike up to the lighthouse which took 45 minutes each way at a fairly fast pace. The route is quite intense if you aren’t used to hills but the view was worth it once we arrived at the top.
We had a scheduled glass bottom boat ride at 11.30am which took us out for half an hour to see the coral and fish. We were lucky enough to see a few turtles too! Overall the glass bottom boat wasn’t that interesting in terms of what you saw but I did it for mum and she didn’t want to snorkel.
After some much needed food at Foxy’s Bar – the only food option on the island if you don’t do the packed lunch or bring your own food – we put on our stylish stinger suits and I went on a guided snorkel safari for $35 while mum headed to Nudey Beach for a swim.
For the guided snorkel I went with a group of 10 by boat to a secluded bay and followed the guide around for an hour while he showed us different parts of the inner reef’s coral and marine life.
We didn’t get to swim alongside any turtles but there was a reef shark, Queensland gropers, giant clams and other families of fish. The coral itself was amazing to see so many different shapes and sizes, though the colouring wasn’t as bright as I thought it would be.
I’m so glad I did this snorkel of the inner reef as I was far more confident for my snorkel of the outer reef during our stay in Port Douglas later in the week.
Once this wrapped up it was almost time to board the ferry back so unfortunately I had no time for stand up paddle boarding – still something I’m yet to try!!
After dinner we went to The Reef Hotel Casino for a drink and listened to that evening’s live music.
It was a really nice few days in Cairns and we were blessed with perfect weather which continued throughout the holiday. In the next post I will share all about our resort stay in Port Douglas.