Cairns, Queensland

Cairns, Queensland

January 04 - 07, 2018

* Cairns Esplanade lagoon
* The Great Barrier Reef
* Kuranda on the SkyRail and Scenic Railway
* The Esplanade
* Barron Falls
* Mossman Gorge and The Daintree Rainforest
* White Water Rafting on the Barron River

* No swimming in the beaches in December.  Happens to be salt water crocodile mating season.
* The crocodiles are really dangerous and can rush out from the ocean.  No walking on beaches at night. Period.
* Killer jelly fish
* December is summer in Australia and it gets very HOT in Queensland, temps range from 23.6 - 31.4°C (74.5 - 88.5°F)
* After having the fear being killed by a crocodile driven into my brain, I was disappointed I never saw a crocodile!

The Adventure: 

Over Christmas 2017, I had a friend from MN visit me.  We had a really ambitious itinerary, but I'm glad we did!  Every day was action packed.  I think we over estimated all the driving in the first leg of the trip, it was too much and most of the scenery BUT we did see some really cool things we would not have seen if we flew.

After spending a few days in Port Douglas and falling in love with the area.   We made our way to Cairns.  We had wanted to do the Flames of the Forest dinning experience, but of course didn't plan ahead.   If you decide to to this, plan ahead - they only do this on limited nights and the number of people are limited, so we were lucky to find a free night and it was the last one before my friend headed back to the States.  The Aboriginal Cultural Experience, which we did is only offered Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Flames of the Forest

The Flames of the Forest experience is set in a rainforest setting.   They pick you up and drop you off, no one can drive to the secluded location.   You are immersed under a canopy in the rainforest.   Sparkling fairy lights hang from trees and candles are lit throughout the area.  It's absolutely gorgeous.   There is an Indigenous performance, followed by story telling, didgeridoo and songs.   All this is accompanied by a seven dish family style banquet served with LOTS of wine, so be thankful you are not driving.

Brett's Outback Tasting Tour

We were on a food kick now, because the next day we signed up for the Outback Tasting Tour.  LOVED THIS.  They pick you up at your hotel early in the morning, the first stop is for scones, jam and coffee!   Sitting lake side at a beautiful raised restaurant, Brett gives you the download for the day.  Throughout the drive Brett provides commentary on the locations, the food, the history of the area, the vendors we are visiting and Australia.  He also throws in some fun stories and keeps the group smiling and laughing.  He has great energy and enthusiasm.

Our next stop was to Sweetwater Lodge, the Platypus Hut where we sampled cheese, nuts, wine, spreads, jams and crackers.   We wandered down to the water and tried to spot some platypus, with no luck.   Earlier that morning three had been swimming with our host as she took her morning dip.   The next stop on our tour was an odd little store where we got to taste some seasonal fruits and many different flavors of hot local peanuts and macadamia nuts. I purchased a few bags of flavored macadamia nuts, I couldn't resist.    Next up, Gallo Dairy Land, here we sampled and bought chocolates and cheeses.  The chocolates here - so many flavors.  Try as many as you can! 😉

Now it was time for lunch and we headed to Mount Uncle's Distillery.  North Queensland's first and only distillery. Here we sampled their award winning liqueurs and ate at the restaurant on site, some yummy pizza and delicious bbq wings.   After lunch we had time to wander the property, pet some friendly animals and beautiful gardens.

After all that food and alcohol, it was time for coffee.   About 10 minutes up the road is Jaques Family coffee plantation  a the 3rd generation farm; with 85,000 Arabica Coffee trees growing in the rich soils.   We  were allowed to stroll freely through the gardens and look closely at the growing coffee beans.   They also had machinery on the property used for harvesting which was quite interesting.  And of course there was plenty of coffee made ‘just as you like it’!

Next up, we headed to Golden drop winery which was the first commercial Mango Winery in Far North Queensland to produce Mango wines, Mango Port, Sparkling Mango wine.  They also produce  fortified Liqueur style Citrus Cellos which come in Mandarin, Lemon, Lime and Dragon Fruit.  We had the opportunity to taste all of the 11 wines in their range.  Some great!  Some not so great, certainly fun to have the opportunity to try this unique wine.

Our last stop, we got caught in the rain and ended up at an interesting bar for some local beers.  Certainly more than enough food and drink for one day, a great opportunity to see some local businesses and overall excellent tour.  One of my favorite things we did while in Cairns.

The Lagoon

The Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon was a bit of a surprise.  The pool is free to everyone. I expected it to be touristy, packed with people and really just a place to check out, get some pictures and find something else to do.  In reality, this is a great, relaxing place to spend the day.  You can swim, layout, bbq and my favorite hang on the wall and watch the ocean.  You might even get lucky like we did and have a band start playing in the park, adding a nice sound track to you day.


From beginning to end this was a fun experience.  We opted to take the railway from Cairns to Kuranda.  Kuranda railway has been in operation since 1915, was hand made and consists of 15 tunnels, 93 curves and dozens of bridges mounted  meters above some very impressive ravines and waterfalls.   The train makes a brief stop a Barron Falls, allowing you to take in the 125m falls.  About an hour after leaving Cairns you arrive in Kuranda.   Kuranda is a village in the rainforest filled with shops, restaurants, hiking trails and a number of attractions.   Bird World, The Butterfly Sanctuary and Koala Gardens are a few of the many activities you'll find here.  After spending the day in Kuranda, we headed back to Cairns via the skyrail.  The trip takes about an hour and a half, and gives you a truly unique perspective of Australia’s World Heritage listed Tropical Rainforest.

Whitewater rafting

Turns out Australia has some excellent whitewater rafting.   Tully River is regarded as the best rafting river across Australia and New Zealand.  The river is rated a Grade 3-4, with over 27 rapids on the river.  I've done quite a few whitewater rafting trips, but none like this, this was one giant set of rapids after another.  Just when you recover your headed down another.   If that sounds tame to you, there's an option to do the Extreme Rafting Experience, check it out!

Palm Cove

This was completely unplanned, the last night my friend had headed back to the States and I was on my own.  We had driven by Palm Cove and heard it was a place to check out, so I decided to spend my last night in Palm Cove.  Beautiful palm trees line a gorgeous beach on one side, the other side is shops, luxury hotels and top notch restaurants.  We spent the afternoon before he had to fly out chilling on the beach and swimming in Palm Cove.  The next morning I opted to go on a stand up paddle boarding tour in the rainforest, it was the perfect way to end this trip.

Our crazy itinerary:

Day 1, 12/24 Arrived in Melbourne

Day 2, 12/25 Christmas, we drove to the 12 Apostles (do not do this, there were so many people we could not even enjoy it.)

Day 3, 12/26 drove to Port Lincoln.

Day 4, 12/27 SHARK DIVING!  We caged dove with Great White Sharks!

Day 5, 12/28 drove to Kimba and stayed in Stone Hut

Day 6 ,12/29 drove to Adelaide and stayed overnight

Day 7, 12/30 flew to Cairns, drove to Port Douglas (great drive, stopped at a resort with the most amazing views for lunch)

Day 8, 12/31 sailed to Low Isle went snorkeling and spend NYE at Iron Bar with a live band playing some old, fun hits

Day 9, 1/1 hung over (do NOT recommend) did a crocodile tour on the Lady Douglas, saw no crocs because it was too HOT!  Went hiking in Mossman Gorge.

Day 10, 1/2 drove to Cape Tribulation

Day 11,  1/3 spent the day in Port Douglas relaxing and swimming

Day 12, 1/4 drove to Cairns, and went to the Flames of the Forest dining experience

Day 13, 1/4 Outback Tasting Tour

Day 14, 1/5 spent the day at the Lagoon and as luck should have it a band was playing in the park

Day 15, 1/6 took the train to Kuranda the day there, took the skyrail back

Day 16, 1/7 Whitewater rafting on the Barron River

Day 17, 1/8 went to Palm Cove, stand up paddle boarding

Must Do:
* Flame of the Forest dining experience
* Spend time relaxing at the Lagoon, check to see if bands are playing, that really made the day perfect
* Day trip to Cape Tribulation and on the way have ice cream at the Daintree Ice Cream Company
* Mossman Gorge - go, go, go - hike (easy hike) and then go swimming!

10 Cairns Blogs:

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  4. 6 things to do in Cairns, Australia on a budget
  5. Scrimp and splurge: 48 hours in Cairns, Queensland
  6. Why Cairns Should Absolutely Be On Your Travel List
  8. Everything Cairns
  10. 11 adventure-packed things to do near Cairns

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