The best of Far North Queensland

From our time exploring Port Douglas and surrounds here are the top things I would recommend are worth your time and money investment.

The Great Barrier Reef

There’s no denying that this was probably both John and I’s favourite experience. Neither of us are big on swimming with fish so it took us right out of our comfort zone but we knew we had to do it.

Because we weren’t so keen on seeing the really big fish we decided on a half day cruise that took us to the Low Isles. This meant instead of jumping off a boat into deep water we could enjoy the reef by wading out from the beach.

I was a little skeptical that we may not see as much being so close to shore but I needn’t have worried at all. As soon as we swam out we saw abundant, colourful coral and fish, including some pretty huge ones. We were also treated to several turtle sightings, which is what i had hoped most to see, small reef sharks (eep, this made me a bit nervous but I am so glad we saw them), and even a cute little starfish lying on the sand.

We were definitely not bored for the few hours we were on Low Isles, but at the same time were more than ready to hop back on board the boat for a muffin and some tea to warm up when time was up.

Even though we only saw a little part of it, I was completely blown away by the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. I sure hope we can look after it for generations to come.

Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for food. When a sea turtle eats several of these they are no longer able to swim down to the bottom of the ocean and camouflage. Sadly, the bags cause them to float and subsequently they are easy prey. I’m glad to see society is becoming more aware about the dangers of plastic on our marine animals.

The Daintree and Cassowary Falls

In a spontaneous decision while away we joined a tour to explore the Daintree. With just us and another couple on board it was practically a private tour and so much fun.

The day started with a crocodile cruise, where, despite the cloudy conditions, we did in fact see a couple of crocs on the go. Then it was on to a beautiful place in the heart of the forest for some morning tea – scones with jam and cream, yum!

From there we headed to a private property to take in Cassowary Falls, all the while the drive took us through the absolutely gorgeous scenery of the Daintree Rainforest. You could feel the temperature in the rainforest was substantially cooler than Port Douglas as there are so many huge trees fighting for the sunlight and creating a gorgeous canopy above.

Once we arrived at the farm we hoped into an open back jeep and went on a four-wheel drive adventure to the falls, clinging on for dear life but laughing lots. The waterfall was picture perfect and so tranquil. I can’t imagine having something like that on my land. Our guide had brought some food for the fish in the deep water. I had changed into my bathers because I was definitely keen to swim where there was a waterfall, however I quickly changed my mind once I felt the temperature of the water and discovered just how many creatures lived in there!

The fish food drew swarms of fresh water fish, including a catfish, an eel and several fresh water turtles (much less cute than the sea turtles but cool nonetheless). John and I even managed to pat the eel! Definitely not something we thought we would do. For the sake of some cool video footage I even mustered up the courage to stand in the middle of all the fish while our guide threw in some food that caused them to thrash about my legs. I did not enjoy that one bit!

Cassowary Falls and all its wildlife were definitely a highlight. I loved seeing so much nature.

Mossman Gorge

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The day we left for the airport we decided to check out Mossman Gorge at last, and I am so glad we did. Just 10 minutes drive north of Port Douglas, this beautiful part of the Daintree has so much to offer.

There are several walking tracks with the longest being a loop of couple of kilometres. I wanted to head out on that one to see as much of the rainforest as we could. So, after finishing the smaller routes we took the long one. It begins with a suspension bridge over the gorge and then continues up for a little way before the official track starts. Unfortunately, in my pregnant state I wasn’t quite able to tackle the whole loop and we had to do an out and back route but it was a lovely walk. We saw a few bush turkeys out there, as well as some geckos, plus the rainforest itself is exceptionally pretty.

After all the walking we headed back to a part of the gorge that offers the perfect place to swim, with a little beach-like entrance and a place clear of boulders. The day we were there was a ‘no swimming’ day but many people were still. I was keen as the water was crystal clear and it is such a beautiful spot. As long as you stay out of the currents and rough waters you should be fine. However, since the water comes down from the mountains underground before being exposed to the sun in Mossman Gorge, it is incredibly freezing water. A quick in and out dip was all that was needed to feel refreshed.

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Kuranda Skyrail

On the drive back to Cairns is the Kuranda Skyrail and Railway, a cable car and old train experience. We chose to do both to get to and from the village of Kuranda at the top.

We went up on the skyrail, which takes about an hour and half because you can get off at a couple of stops along the way to explore the rainforest. There are some beautiful views from above the treetops in the cable car. Along the way you also see the impressive Baron Falls, both from the cable car and a viewing platform. During the train ride back down towards Cairns the falls are also a stop off.

Once we reached Kuranda we had some lunch and did the butterfly sanctuary. I really enjoyed the butterfly sanctuary. There were so many colourful variants and some absolutely huge butterflies. They would also land on you if you were wearing white or bright colours.

We took the railway back down – an hour and 45 minute journey through lush forest, tunnels and past waterfalls. It took us almost a full day to do both the skyrail, railway and the Kuranda Village.

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Docking at Port Douglas

Port Douglas, Queensland.

Never heard of it? Or heard of it but don’t really know what the deal is? Well you’re not alone, before I spent a week there this winter I hadn’t much of an idea what the place was about either.

Before getting married early last year, I won a Facebook competition (way too exciting because I never win anything!) and the prize was a fairly decent $1000 travel voucher. Normally I wouldn’t find this so hard to spend, but having just gotten back from a huge European honeymoon (I will blog about the other locations at some point I swear) I didn’t particularly feel in the mood to book another holiday. It wasn’t until a few days before the voucher expired that I settled on booking a week in Port Douglas in tropical north Queensland.

There were a couple of reasons for the location that I knew very little about. The first was I wanted a holiday so different from our honeymoon; this included just one location, a warm climate and somewhere that was conducive to relaxing and wasn’t going to make us feel like rushing about and doing a million things. The second reason, I will admit, was Instagram. No, I don’t mean I had seen some great ‘grammable opportunities and so I wanted to replicate that — although I would soon discover just how picture perfect this place was. I actually saw a post by Rebecca Judd of her family holiday in Port Douglas and it just looked so relaxing that I thought it would be the way to go.

Turns out after finding out in March/April that we were pregnant, a relaxing holiday (now babymoon!) was just what was needed.

We spent 7 nights at Peppers Beach Club in a spa suite, which gave us our own little spa bath on the balcony. It was bliss. The lagoon pool is gorgeous, although it was pretty freezing to swim in. I had booked us in for the buffet breakfast everyday too so we didn’t have to worry about getting out and about to eat. It wasn’t anything too impressive but more than enough options for the two of us who stuck with muesli and yoghurt every morning.

The hotel is in a great location. Port Douglas is a small town but some of the hotels sit a fair way from the main shopping/dining precinct. Every day we walked to the main street to grab a meal or just take a stroll. From Peppers it’s also a very short walk to the stunning Four Mile Beach with views of the dramatic mountain ranges. If you walk straight through town from Four Mile Beach for about a kilometre you’ll hit another beach on the west coast, meaning you can both see the sunset rise and set over the ocean in Port Douglas.

Port Douglas was the ideal base from which to explore tropical north Queensland, we headed out on day trips to Mossman Gorge, Kuranda and the Great Barrier Reef, all of which I hope to detail here soon.

Brisbane is for brunch, bagels and long bus rides

There was only one way to start our first day in Brisbane, and that was with a good brunch.

After making the hour long trek by bus, from where John and I were staying with my close friend Dani at Nazarene Theological College, we arrived in Brisbane’s beautiful CBD.

Immediately we started on the hunt for a good brunch spot, having begun the search on Instagram during the bus ride but failing to turn up anything within close walking distance.

We stumbled upon Toby’s Estate and I enjoyed smashed avo, feta and lemon on a very healthy but delicious slice of rye sourdough (I didn’t even know that was a thing, but consider me a fan).20150901_11444820150901_113133After our bellies were prepared for the day ahead we took a stroll through Brisbane’s botanic gardens.

These are lovely, peaceful gardens right in the middle of the city and the perfect place to have a picnic, take a nap or enjoy a little walk.

We had fun exploring around the trees with the giant roots. You could walk in between all the branches right to the centre of the tree and through little gaps, it felt a bit like a jungle.20150901_12280920150901_12240320150901_123314

We headed back towards the centre of Brisbane and King George Square. Here sits Brisbane City Hall, an impressive looking building with a tall clock tower.20150901_143614Dani knew of a tour that ran inside City Hall, so we went in to take a look and found they operate small group tours of the clock tower every 15 minutes, and best of all they’re free!

We got there with about three minutes to go until the next tour and somehow nabbed the last three tickets – talk about providence.

For a free activity to do in Brisbane you can’t go past this. They take you up the clock tower in the original hand-operated elevator and you have a few minutes to enjoy the view of the city at the top. On the way down you stop inside the clock face while the bells chime above you.20150901_13293720150901_13265320150901_13202620150901_132124 (1)After all that exploring it was definitely time to refuel and Dani took us to the perfect places to do just that.

At the Noosa Chocolate factory, Dani picked up, what she laid claim to be, ‘the world’s best rocky road’ for sampling later. The verdict by all three of us was that she was, in fact, correct! The Rocky Road doesn’t contain any nuts but is filled with large marshmallow and real jelly layers. So yum!

I also picked up a couple of things for us to try after lunch including, freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries and mango white chocolate. The freeze-dried strawberries were John’s favourite. I enjoyed them also. The strawberry on the inside made your mouth tingle and fizz.20150901_134816The next pit stop was The Bagel Boys for our lunch. I’d actually never had a bagel before so I was excited to try one. I ordered the beet and feta on a rye bagel (yes, rye again).

It wasn’t until a long walk later, when we arrived at a nice shady spot in Southbank, that we actually ate our bagels. 20150901_150108After lunch Dani had to leave us to make her class that afternoon. John and I decided we would try and brave the bus system back ourselves so we could spend more time exploring in Brisbane, we weren’t quite done yet.

It was our search for toilets that led us to accidentally find Brisbane’s museum. We took a little look around at the dinosaur bones and the terrifying, preserved giant squid.

Our final activity for the day was a ride on the Brisbane wheel. The wheel gave great views of the city as a whole and was a lot of fun.20150901_160625 20150901_160549 (1)

When we came off we stumbled upon a very cool looking, friendly lizard. He followed me to the drinking fountain, and I will admit I did freak out when he came right up close.20150901_161734When it was time to go home, thankfully we found our way back out of the city on the bus ok.

It was crazy to reflect on everything we had done that day and think about how normally that would have just been one work day. But I am definitely grateful that I have a job that means I can enjoy things like this.20150901_144201