Australian Travel Diary - 2 Days in Cairns

From cold Melbourne to the hot Cairns. 

After a chilly welcome in Melbourne, my friend and I headed to the northern part of Australia for some sunshine in Cairns.  If it was this hot and humid in the Winter, I couldn't imagine what summer in Cairns would be like. Cairns is known as the gate way to the Great Barrier Reef.  It's not a trip to Australia without checking one of the most magnificent natural areas of the Earth. We took the time to explore this tropical tourist town and uncover its hidden treasures.

Frankland Island and the Great Barrier Reef

While I'm not a fan of the beach or the ocean, Cairns is the hub for the Great Barrier Reef, which even an ocean hater can appreciate.   You have several ways of getting to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns: from island trips to deep dive cruises.  

We ruled out the deep dive cruises, mostly because I can't swim so anything related to water freaks me out.  The island tours were our best bet and we had plenty to choose from including Green Island, Fitzroy Island, Hamilton Island, Lizard Island, etc.  Ultimately we chose Frankland Island, because it was less touristy and provided a different part of the Reef to explore.

Frankland Island turned out to be a beautiful disaster with plenty of sunshine and a desolated reality of the Great Barrier Reef. After taking a river cruise to island, we were treated to sunshine weather and gorgeous blue waters.   After a bit of sunbathing, we took a glass bottom boat tour out to the see the bigger part; most of it was lifeless with a turtle and a fish here and there.Turns out a cyclone hit that particular part, so all that's really left is a coral graveyard. Picture the elephant graveyard from the Lion King, but coral.   It was a reality check that we weren't expecting.  

Your Great Barrier Reef Tip - Take the deep water dive tours.  

Atherton Tablelands and Milla Milla Falls

With an extra day left we decided to take a day trip out to the Atherton Tablelands for a wild adventure into the rainforest.  The Great Barrier Reef kinda killed our mood, but we made the most of it by visiting the rainforests. Our morning started leisurely with some tea and a river cruise over the eerie Lake Barrine.  It was serene entrance into a long day of walking and climbing uphill.  We even saw a tree python hidden in a ancient tree fern nest, which is the most dangerous this trip got. 

From the lake we took a trip to Milla Milla Falls, a waterfall that belongs in the Jungle Book .  Milla Milla Falls is gorgeously framed by rich green trees tucked away for visitors to take private swims and enjoy the views.  It was a rainy day so water levels were higher than usual, so no swims for us.   Though it was a spectacular moment standing in front of it. 

Your Atherton Tablelands Tip - Don't go on a rainy day and bring the right footwear. 

Paronella Park

We went a little off the beaten path here.  Most people visit the Kuranda forest for a spectacular view of the rainforest from the railway. However, I was stuck on the whole Indiana Jones-esque adventure.  Who knew one can find a castle ruins in the middle of the Tablelands? Contrary to usual castle ruins, these were not ancient.   In fact, this used to be a tourist attraction created by Jose Paronella. However, the place burnt down and now they are trying to revitalize the park.   This place is amazing to visit, from a bat cave to waterfalls galore, you won't regret going. 

Your Paronella Park tip - Try out the night experience tour.  They place gets lit. 

In the City

The city of Cairns only has a few attractions - the most important is the Esplanade.  The Esplanade is waterfront lagoon and the only place you can go for a swim in the city, despite being near the coast.  Another place to check out is the Night Markets for cheap massages and the best street food. 

Food & Coffee - For the seafood lover, yes you have more choices.  But for the non-seafood lovers, there are many choices most of them that I recommend is Asian.  Try Thai Coins when you're not for some of the best Thai food ever.   If you're looking for some coffee, go to Caffiend.  It is located in some alley way and that should be the first sign that you're about to get treated to some damn good coffee. Go for the coconut latte and the Miso Scramble to start your morning.

Waffle & Puff - Going with this trend of the Night Markets, Cairns has some of the best little food stores in their Night Markets, and the best of all of them is Waffle & Puff.  Yes, waffles.  You get a Waffle sandwich with whipped cream and another topping inside.  This is the most simplest yet best creation ever made.  Hands down the best street waffle I have ever had.