Posted on: March 7th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
If you hate Mondays, just head to Cairns.
Here, every day of the week feels like the weekend.
Located in Australia’s far north Queensland, time is almost nonexistent in this tropical oasis of rain forest and reef.
Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, people from all over the world travel to Cairns to see this extraordinary natural wonder.
But there’s so much more to explore in and around Cairns. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Cairns.
14 Things to Do in Cairns
1. See the Great Barrier Reef
Image: Tourism Australia
If you’re heading to Cairns, you’re heading to the Great Barrier Reef. It’s one of the top things to do in Cairns – no trip is complete without seeing the reef.
As the largest reef system in the world and one of its most precious natural assets, seeing the reef is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Cairns is the base for most excursions setting out to the reef, with options even for those who’d rather keep their feet on the ground.
Since the reef sits about 158 miles away in the ocean from Cairns, snorkeling cruises are the most popular way to see the reef. Non-swimmers can opt for tour operators that cruise out to a large pontoon by the reef, where underwater observatories, glass-bottom boats and semi-submersible vessels reveal the incredible underwater world of the reef all without dipping a toe in the water.
For the more adventurous, introductory scuba diving sessions are always on offer. Nothing beats seeing the vibrant colors of tropical fish, flitting in and out of breathtaking coral formations, up close on a dive.
Half the fun about visiting the Kuranda Rainforest Village is actually getting there.
Surrounded in the verdant rainforest of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics, one of the best ways to get to Kuranda is riding the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
This scenic cable car ride lifts you up over this expansive rainforest system for an incredible 1.5 hour float above the Wet Tropics. Opt for a glass bottom cable car to see the millions of shades of green below you. Descend through canopy tops and stop at different stations offering boardwalk tours through the stunning rainforest and educational centers.
The village of Kuranda itself is a hub of local creatives who find inspiration in the rainforest and ancient culture of the Djabugay people belonging to this region. Markets featuring hand-made crafts, artisan goods and local produce line the village, perfect for finding a treasure to take back home.
From Kuranda you can explore the rainforest on self-guided walks, join a riverboat cruise and visit the Rainforestation Nature Park. Meet and cuddle a koala at the Koala Gardens, where you can also get up close to kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and other native Australian wildlife.
Change out furry marsupials for feathers and wings at the Butterfly Sanctuary and Birdworld, easily accessible from the Kuranda Heritage Markets.
End your visit with a ride back to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This scenic train ride winds through the tropical rainforest over bridges and tunnels built by pioneers over 100 years ago. Dole out a little extra cash for gold class seats and receive complimentary morning or afternoon tea consisting of local delicacies, wines and lagers.
3. Discover Indigenous Australia at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Image: Adam Bruzzone
Learn about the world’s oldest living civilization at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
This award-winning park is one of Australia’s top destinations for learning about its indigenous culture through the eyes of the local Djabugay people.
Witness dreamtime stories about the creation of Earth come to life through performances, dances and breathtaking visual experiences.
Dancing is a large part of the Djabugay culture, so you can expect a hand pulling you up on stage and learning traditional dances and songs.
Join a bush food trail led by an Aboriginal guide and walk through the Tjapukai parklands, learning about the traditional uses of native plants.
Hear the sounds of native Australian animals come to life through the resounding notes of the didgeridoo. Learn about this unique instrument and its integral place in Aboriginal culture.
Kids will also love the spear and boomerang throwing. With something for everyone to enjoy, Tjapukai is not only one of the best things to do in Cairns with family but also one of the best ways to learn more about authentic Australia.
4. Explore the Daintree Rainforest
Image: Tropical North Queensland
Ready to meet a green dinosaur?
Just two hours north of Cairns is the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, where you’ll meet the green dinosaur, dating back up to 120 million years.
Although this species isn’t an actual dinosaur, once you step into the Daintree Rainforest you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
And you’d be right to feel so – the Daintree Rainforest is part of the oldest rainforest system in the world, even older than the Amazon!
The green dinosaur is one of many unique plants that make up the natural wonders of the rainforest. Explore the many walkways and viewing platforms stretching out from the Daintree Discovery Center, where you can learn about the origins of this ancient rainforest.
Join a cruise on the Daintree River and spot native wildlife such as saltwater crocodiles and bright cassowaries. You can even zip-line through the verdant canopies and take in the stunning views over the endless shades of green and cascading streams below you.
Our favorite way to explore the rainforest is on tours led by Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji guides, native to the Daintree region. As traditional caretakers of the land, they offer historical and cultural insight into the way their people used the rainforest for food, medicine and shelter for over 9,000 years. They’ll lead you through hidden streams and spots inaccessible to the general public, giving you a truly unique experience of the world’s oldest rainforest.
Don’t miss out on Cape Tribulation, a spectacular bay where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. It’s the only place in the world where to World Heritage-listed sites collide!
5. Relax at the Cairns Esplanade
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/ Andrew Watson
Worried about stingers in the ocean?
No worries, just head to the Cairns Esplanade.
Located in the center of town right along the water’s edge, relaxing at the Esplanade is one of the best things to do in Cairns to cool off from the tropical heat.
The esplanade’s tremendously large man-made lagoon offers a beautiful spot for a safe swim in place of a beach. A sandy shore dips into crystal clear waters, dotted with splashing fountains and patrolled by lifeguards during the day.
A boardwalk runs along the esplanade, right by the pool, perfect for a walk or jog by the water. Grassy parkland surrounds the lagoon, with shady spots to lay out a picnic or enjoy local bands play live music.
Free fitness classes also run throughout the week, ranging from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to yoga and pilates. If you’re in Cairns on a Saturday check out the Esplanade markets for locally made arts and crafts.
6. Roam the Cairns Botanic Gardens
Image: Friends of Botanic Gardens Cairns
For a small taste of tropical rainforest right in the city, visit the Cairns Botanic Gardens.
Here you can explore exotic plants from tropical regions across the world, including plants from the jungles of South East Asia, South America and Queensland. These unique plants can be found in the Flecker Botanic Gardens, a conservatory highlighting some of the rarest tropical plants in the world.
Get a glimpse of what Cairns once looked like on the Rainforest Boardwalk, winding through a lush patch of rainforest ecosystem, home to endangered species of the region.
Stroll through the Fitzalan Gardens, a picturesque section connecting three separate gardens by paths and footbridges crossing through giant palms and ancient trees. There’s always a secluded nook or cranny here to hideaway and relax in the tranquility of the gardens.
Explore the journey of plant evolution at the Gondwana Heritage Garden. Its main trail traces through the evolution of plants from the very first bacteria that developed into the flowering plants we see today.
Walk around the freshwater and saltwater lakes in the gardens, where you can spot native birds, frogs and turtles or bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds.
As one of the more tranquil things to do in Cairns, visiting the gardens makes for a perfect half-day activity.
7. Discover Treasures at the Markets
Image: Tourism & Events Queensland/ Andrew Watson
What better place to get fresh produce than in the tropics?
At Rusty’s Market in Cairns, the local fruits and vegetables on offer are practically straight from the tree.
Here you can find arguably the best tropical produce in all Australia. You’ll catch the fragrant aroma of the market before you see it. Fruit and veggie lovers will find a wide variety of produce from avocados and mangoes to banana blossom, taro and cassava. You can also find boutiques selling hand-made jewelry, crafts and clothing, perfect for a souvenir.
Take a break from shopping and pick up a snack at one of the many stalls featuring local sellers. Some of the best Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches are found here. If you’re in Cairns for a few days, Rusty’s is the perfect place to pick up some ingredients for preparing fresh meals at your accommodation. The market is open during the day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
If you’re more of a night owl, then head to the Cairns Night Markets, open from 4pm – 10pm every day of the week. These lively markets offer an almost overwhelming variety of Australian souvenirs, t-shirts, custom-made jewelry and other trinkets. Grab anything from Asian cuisine to fresh Australian seafood at the food court for dinner. You’ll want to find a dessert at one of the stalls offering Australian snacks such as kangaroo and emu jerky or gelato.
This wildlife park combines a natural rainforest ecosystem with a challenging ropes course all in one attraction.
Don’t let the size of the park fool you. Though it’s not as large as other wildlife parks throughout Australia, its intimacy allows for personal wildlife encounters you won’t find in other places. The knowledgeable and passionate staff present informative talks on the wildlife, including snakes, lizards, birds, and Goliath, the gigantic saltwater crocodile. You can even pose for a picture while cuddling a koala – a bucket list photo op!
However, the main highlight of Cairns Zoom is its myriad of obstacles courses throughout the complex. Test your balance on the Slackline tightrope walk and cross above trees and tropical rainforest foliage or climb the Pirate Climb rope net to the top of the Power Jump.
Kids will love the Hi-Zoom obstacle course with its challenging wall climbs, tunnels, rope swings and zip lines. Just one look at it and the little ones will dash straight in line. Though a turn at the course is an extra cost, the reward of completing it like a champion is worth every dime.
9. See Tropical Marine Life at the Cairns Aquarium
Image: Cairns Aquarium
Stepping into the Cairns Aquarium is like stepping through the depths of the ocean. The range of aquatic life you’ll see here is even better than what a diver sees.
The Cairns Aquarium highlights the incredibly diverse marine life native to the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef. As the oldest rainforest in the world and the world’s largest reef formation, the marine life from these two World Heritage sites is absolutely unreal.
The aquarium recreates over 10 different habitats encompassing these delicate ecosystems, creating a natural home for a variety of marine life. See the brilliant colors of unique crayfish and giant prawns of the Creek and Streams exhibit. Catch a glimpse of the some of the world’s most bizarre fish, the Freshwater Sawfish, in the Waterways and Billabongs exhibit. There are even exhibits showcasing snakes, lizards and frogs from the tropical rainforests as well as exotic insects and spiders.
One of the main attractions is the Great Barrier Reef Gallery, showcasing the colorful reefs, coral and tropical fish that call this natural wonder home. You can also interact with starfish, sea cucumbers and lizards at the Touch Tanks.
The aquarium also offers presentations to give you a deeper understanding of the marine life on display. It’s one of the best things to do in Cairns on a rainy day, or a perfect substitute for a Great Barrier Reef.
Located less than an hour’s drive away from Cairns, Hartley’s is the perfect day trip for young families.
The park is made up of four different habitats showcasing different wildlife. Meet the beautiful flightless cassowary at the Cassowary Garden on a boarded walk through lush eucalyptus trees rising out of lily padded wetlands. See alligators, lizards and turtles on the Wildlife Discovery Trail, winding into the wildlife amphitheater where the Snake Show and famous Crocodile Attack Show highlight the day.
You can also meet other native Australia wildlife such as wombats, koalas and kangaroos at the Gondwana Gateway section of the park, where you’ll learn how evolution shaped Australia’s unique animals. Don’t miss out on the koala feeding to see these sleepy creatures in action!
The absolute highlight of Hartley’s is the lagoon boat cruise. Embark on a journey through Hartley’s Lagoon, gliding along side enormous crocodiles right in the water! All of nineteen crocs laze in the water, enjoying their natural wetland habitat. Cruising into the lagoon gives visitors an impressive insight into crocodile behavior just as they would act in the wild.
11. Soak Up the Sun in Northern Beaches
Palm Cove Beach
Cairns is not the place to go for the beach. In fact, there is no beach in Cairns.
But don’t cross Cairns off your list just yet. There are so many incredible beaches not even an hour away from Cairns. You’ll have the perfect beach day yet.
Just 20 minutes north of Cairns lies Trinity Beach, a favorite with the locals. The gentle rolling waves, soft golden sand and extremely laid back ambience will have you instantly rolling out your towel and laying out in the sun. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer months and a net is cast out during stinger season to keep out unwanted jellyfish. Barbecue areas nestled within the surrounding palm trees are perfect for a picnic out at the beach.
Palm Cove is also a popular respite from the hustle and bustle of Cairns. Only 30 minutes away, Palm Cove is surrounded by a boutique beach town with an array of upscale resorts and classy bars and restaurants for an intimate night out. The beach itself is fringed with palm tress rising high with a gentle lean into the serene, blue waters. A pier juts out into the sea, offering a boarded walk above the sea foam and spray of the fresh ocean breeze.
Yorkey’s Knob, about 20 minutes away from Cairns, is for the adventurers. It’s popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kite surfing and wind surfing. An onsite kite center offers rental gear and introduction courses on kite surfing.
12. Go White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting the Tully River
Wet and wild in Cairns means rafts and oars.
The raging rapids of the Tully River, about two hours from Cairns, offers some of the best white water rafting in all Australia.
Thrill seekers can join extreme white water rafting tours where raft flips, swimming the rapids and jumping from high rocks is not only allowed, but encouraged!
Less risky rafting with the right amount of torrents is also available for beginners.
For easier grade 2-3 guided rafting, the Barron River is the perfect rafting spot. Only 20 minutes away from Cairns, joining a half day rafting tour gives you the excitement of white water rafting while still leaving time to enjoy the rest of your day.
One of our favorite tours transports you right from your hotel in Cairns to the river of your choice for a guided rafting experience. Experience one of the best things to do in Cairns and ask your About Australia destination specialist about booking this adventure for you.
13. Skydive Over the Great Barrier Reef
Skydiving over Cairns
You don’t really hear about people proclaiming “that was awful!” after landing from a skydive. Usually it’s more incredulous laughter, an indescribable sense of accomplishment and an adrenaline rush that makes you feel like you can do anything.
Sounds like the thrill of a lifetime!
What better way to tick this adventure off your bucket list than over the most incredible natural formation in the world?
If you’ve never been skydiving before, this is the perfect place to give it a go. Any fear and nerves you’ll feel will blend in with the exhilaration of the jaw-dropping views around you.
Take in the vast, aquamarine ocean as you plummet towards the turquoise stretch of coral-framed reef. The tropical rainforests of Queensland are spread out before your eyes, and you’ll descend onto a perfect beach landing.
Tandem skydiving – where you jump off a plane attached to a certified skydiver – is the most popular form of skydiving in Cairns. Booking this in advance is essential – skydiving in Cairns tends to sell out fast!
14. Try Your Luck at the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Image: Reef Hotel Casino Cairns
The Pullman Reef Hotel is more than just a hotel – it’s a Cairns icon.
Taking up an entire block, this 5-star hotel houses a fabulous casino, world class restaurants, live music, and the Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome.
Perhaps the best part about the casino is its rather intimate environment. With poker tables, pool tables, electronic darts, gaming machines and movie screenings on offer, there’s something for everyone.
Unwind at the electronic gaming machines and order a drink from BAR36, personally delivered to you. Join one of the gaming tables – the friendly staff are more than welcoming to new players.
Looking for More Thing to Do in Cairns?
As the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest, Cairns is Australia’s tropical paradise.
About Australia knows the best hidden gems and things to do in Cairns to perfectly fit into your Australia trip.
Want to get started on planning your vacation Down Under? Contact About Australia today to get the wheels in motion for the trip of a lifetime!
Posted on: February 13th, 2019 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Cairns is all about tropical vibes. Suits and ties are exchanged for shorts and sunglasses. Days feel like the carefree, relaxed summers of your childhood and nights instantly put you into holiday mode.
As gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics – the oldest rainforest system in the world – your visit to Cairns will no doubt be a busy one.
But if you’re looking for other things to do in Cairns, we’ve gathered a list of local must-see gems. Here’s our list of 7 favorite free things to do in Cairns.
7 Free Things to Do in Cairns
1. Spend a Day at the Cairns Esplanade
Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
Some people prefer the beach, others prefer the pool.
At the Cairns Esplanade, you get the best of both worlds.
This local landmark combines a large man-made lagoon with a small sandy shore, so you get the feel of a beach at the pool. The crystal clear waters offer a fresh respite from the tropical heat, along with shaded areas to help keep you cool. Lifeguards patrol the lagoon during the day.
A lush, green park surrounds the lagoon, with soft grass perfect for laying out and sunbathing or enjoying a picnic lunch. The park also features picnic benches and BBQ grills free to use, but be sure to get in early to snag a bench!
If you’re in Cairns during the weekend, you can enjoy live bands play in the park from 2pm – 5pm. Feeling a bit more active? Take to the wide boardwalk surrounding the lagoon, equipped with free fitness equipment and a playground for the kids. Continue on to Muddy’s Playground, a small splash park perfect for younger children.
The Esplanade also offers free fitness classes throughout the week, ranging from aqua aerobics in the lagoon to yoga and pilates.
Swimming, grilling, workouts and music – there’s something for everyone at the Esplanade. The best part is it’s all free!
2. Browse the Markets
Rusty’s Market. Image: Tourism and Events Queensland / Andrew Watson
Cairns is famous for its local markets, with Rusty’s Market as the main attraction.
Rusty’s Market is known to draw in visitors from out of town for the freshest produce in Queensland. Early risers are rewarded, too – open only from Friday to Sunday, Rusty’s begins from 5am to 6pm. Fruits and vegetables are freshly gathered in the morning then carted off to the market, making it all truly farm-to-table.
You’ll find everything from mangoes, durians and leafy greens to tropical nuts, lychees and pineapples. Many local vendors also sell their wares at Rusty’s, such as turmeric products, hand made natural soaps and lotions, pastries, and knits.
In the evening you’ll want to hit up the Cairns Night Markets, a mecca of creative sweet treats and Australian souvenirs. Open from 5pm to 11pm every day of the week, browsing the night markets is a great way to spend your free evenings.
With an incredible array of souvenirs, here is where you should do your souvenir shopping. You’ll find staples such as T-shirts, fridge magnets and key chains along with more unique items such as indigenous Australian art, koala dream catchers, and even a stall where you can get a fish pedicure!
If you’re craving something sweet, choose from fish-shaped cream puffs, waffle desserts on a stick, churros served with ice cream or crepes. That doesn’t even touch the full list of sweet treats you’ll find at the Night Markets’ food court, where you’ll also find an array of Asian cuisine sure to get your mouth watering.
3. Explore the Cairns Botanic Gardens
Rainforest Boardwalk, Cairns Botanic Gardens
Get a taste of the rainforest at the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Located near the center of the city, the gardens and its walking paths offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city.
Open every day from 7:30am to 5:30pm, you can enjoy a quiet stroll through its unique gardens, each vastly different from the next. The Watkins Munroe Martin Conservatory houses some of the gardens’ most valuable and rarest plants along with a collection of local butterflies. Step inside and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped right into a bubble of rainforest.
Take to the Rainforest Boardwalk, winding through an ecosystem of tropical palm trees towering over a floor of green ferns. Discover the tropical fruit trees and vegetables of the grounds surrounding the Saltwater Lake, or look out for native birds while you enjoy a picnic by the gardens’ Freshwater Lake.
The Gondwana Heritage Garden displays Australia’s unique flora tracing back from the beginning stages of evolution of its native plants. You’ll find species of plants that were among the first flowering plants in the world.
You can also explore a collection of local plants used by the indigenous people of the region for over 40,000 years at the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden. See a Chinese-style garden at the Zhanjiang Friendship Garden, a perfect spot to stop and take in the tranquility of the gardens.
Join a free guided tour every day beginning at 10am for deeper insight into the gardens, or simply spend a quite afternoon.
4. Visit the Cairns Art Gallery
Cairns Art Gallery
Once you get past the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics – the undisputed stars of Cairns – you’ll get to see the hidden gems the city has to offer.
The Cairns Art Gallery, just a block away from the Cairns Esplanade, is a small but elegant gallery showcasing local, contemporary and indigenous art.
The gallery is comprised of three levels in a heritage building, beautifully styled in classical-inspired architecture. Each level is dedicated to carefully curated pieces and rotating exhibitions featuring everything from photo collections, installations, thought-provoking modern art and Aboriginal artifacts.
After exploring the gallery, pop in to Perrotta’s, the on-site cafe serving up delicious coffee, tasty breakfast options and zesty lunch and dinner menus. Outside seating underneath a shaded verandah creates the perfect ambience for al fresco dining.
The gallery shop offers a great range of specialty gifts, jewelry, books and toys inspired by the in-house exhibitions and collections. You’ll also see pieces from local artists on sale, a perfect memento of your visit to the gallery.
5. Relax at the Northern Beaches
Palm Cove, Tropical North Queensland
Nothing beats a day at the beach, especially in the sun-kissed beaches of Australia.
However, Cairns has no beaches. At least, not within the city itself.
Travel 20 minutes north of Cairns and you’ll come across what are known as the Northern Beaches. The closest and a consistent favorite beach is Trinity Beach, where gentle waves, soft golden sand and its relaxed ambience make it perfect for rolling out a towel and soaking up the sun. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the summer season, and a net keeps out jellyfish during stinger season so you can enjoy a swim.
Palm Cove is another favorite only 30 minutes away. This is the sort of beach you see on the covers of travel magazines, with its serene, blue waters, soft sand and splendid sunsets framed by relaxed palms. A pier juts out into the sea, offering a boarded walk above the sea foam and spray of the fresh ocean breeze.
Yorkey’s Knob is for the adventurers, popular for water sports such as jet skiing, kite surfing and wind surfing. Only 20 minutes away from Cairns, this is the place for an adventurous beach day trying your hand at extreme water sports. If you’re interested in giving kite surfing a go, an onsite kite center offers rental gear and introduction courses.
6. Discover Local Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
Swimming at Crystal Cascades. Image: Tourism & Events Queensland / Andrew Watson
There’s a local secret to staying cool during the hot Cairns summer – swimming holes and waterfalls.
In fact, many locals completely skip the beach and head straight to these hidden gems for a cool, refreshing swim. Surrounded by lush, shady rainforest, these natural rock pools and waterfalls are hidden tropical oases only minutes from Cairns.
The Crystal Cascades is a popular spot due to its close proximity to Cairns (only 15 – 20 minutes away) and its several different rock pool. Water cascades down a mountain rising out of the rainforest, creating many spectacular waterfalls splashing into the refreshing pools. Small streams running over collections of smoothed rock create natural water slides, just be careful to watch out for people before you slide down! This spot is easily accessible from a carpark, with barbecue and toilet facilities available.
Stoney Creek Falls, located 20 minutes from Cairns, is hidden beneath the pristine wilderness of Barron Gorge National Park. This sparkling waterfall cascades down into a refreshing swimming hole, surrounded in crystal clear rock pools and streams. There’s a walking path running along the creek that takes you to an old weir, a popular spot for relaxing and taking in the tranquility of the untouched rainforest around you.
Freshwater Creek, just 10 – 15 minutes from the city center, is a continuation of Crystal Cascades. This clear stream runs under towering, verdant trees and through smooth stones, offering a shady, cool respite. Picnic benches and barbecues are available throughout different spots along the creek.
7. Climb Walsh’s Pyramid
This adventure is not for the faint-hearted.
But if you’re an experienced hiker looking for the best walks in Cairns, Walsh’s Pyramid is the perfect challenge.
Located about 30 minutes south of Cairns, Walsh’s Pyramid is the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world. Ascending over 3000 feet, this amazing natural formation rewards climbers with truly incredible views out to Cairns.
The whole walk takes about 4 – 7 hours to complete, best started early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. The marked trail to the summit is rocky and steep, so you’ll need to use your hands for many parts of the hike. Take as much water as you can, and when you think you’ve packed enough, pack even more. You’ll also want to pack snacks to keep you energized throughout the walk. Dab on a good layer of sunscreen.
You’ll likely see many runners summiting the pyramid, training for the annual “Pyramid Race” that takes place every August. They’ll make climbing the pyramid look easy, but don’t feel pressured to keep up. You’ll want to be able to say you’ve climbed the highest natural pyramid in the world!
Try These Free Things to Do in Cairns
As home to the Great Barrier Reef and the spectacular Wet Tropics, your visit to Cairns is sure to hold once in a lifetime experiences. For the free moments you may have in between, these free things to do in Cairns offer a true local’s Cairns experience.
Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Visit the Great Barrier Reef Between June & July to Swim with Minke Whales
First recognized by scientists less than 30 years ago, the dwarf minke whale is both elusive and super friendly.
There is so much we don’t know about these whales despite their proclivity to search out human company.
Scientists don’t understand why, but these whales are extremely curious and will often spend hours swimming around snorkelers and divers, giving quite a show! They are known to follow a boat around for hours, stopping for a look at each new dive site.
When to Swim with Minke Whales
Minke whales are the most common of the great whale species, found in abundance throughout the world’s oceans. They are mostly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
They are found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand between March and December, but the best time to see minke whales is in June and July.
Despite their wide reach, swimming with minke whales only happens in The Great Barrier Ribbon Reefs in Tropical North Queenland, Australia. The great thing about this is that minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef are very social and communicative. Expeditions out to the reef regularly report seeing multiple whales in one day!
These multi-day Liveaboard expeditions depart from Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. These expeditions visit unique reef sites each day, offering more opportunities to swim with these gentle creatures.
This is one of the only animal encounters in the world that is entirely on the animal’s own terms. When a pod is spotted, a rope is tossed into the water. Groups of up to 10 swimmers hold on to the rope and the whales can approach or leave as they like. The whales are very generous with their time and once a pod is spotted, its rare if someone on the boat misses out on the experience while waiting their turn.
Things to Know Before Swimming with Minke Whales
Being in the water with these majestic creatures is described as a life-changing experience. It’s common for people to emerge from the water crying, screaming or just plain speechless.
If you want to add this encounter to your Australia bucket list, here are a few things you should know!
1. Every Australian winter, the minke whales make their annual migration from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef from May to August. Plan your trip between June to mid-July for the best odds of seeing a pod. Peak season is in early July.
2. This special experience might take a bit of effort and luck! Only a handful of tour operators have permits to swim with minke whales and you’re never guaranteed an encounter. Increase your odds of swimming with the genial giants by taking a 3-7 night Liveaboard Excursion. In June and July, you’ll have a 98% chance of encountering the whales. It is recommend that you pre-book your excursion.
3. If you’re not keen on spending nights at sea, you can take a day-trip out of Port Douglas. These day-trips have an encounter rate of about 18%. This decreases your odds quite a bit, but if you do encounter them, you will feel as though you won the lottery! Either way it’s an amazing day out on the Great Barrier Reef. These day-trips often give discounts for multiple days out on the boat and they usually end up at different dive sites each day. So, you could stay a few nights in lovely Port Douglas and increase your odds by taking multiple trips out to the reef without feeling like you’re doing the same thing every day.
4. If you go in July, you might even have a chance to see and/or swim with Humpback whales too!
5. You can contribute directly to ongoing research including photo-identification, behavior research and conservation efforts from your minke whale encounter.
6. Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales. Like Humpback whales, they have no teeth, but a series of baleen plates that they use to trap and filter the food krill.
7. There is still much to be learned about these whales. For example, they have never been seen feeding on the Great Barrier Reef so it is assumed that they feed in Open Ocean while in the tropics, but no one really knows!
8. They are one of the fastest whales. They can travel at speeds greater than 20 knots or about 23 miles per hour.
9. Minke whales seem to prefer snorkelers to divers. They tend to get closer to and hang around longer when humans are not wearing large air tanks.
Want a chance to cross this amazing experience off your Bucket List? Visit Australia with the help of a Destination Specialist at About Australia. We can make your once in a lifetime trip Down Under fun and easy!
Posted on: November 2nd, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
There’s no better way to recharge than on an island getaway.
But maybe your idea of recharging isn’t all beaches and sun. Maybe it’s discovering wildlife, hiking through lush rainforests or sampling local delicacies.
With over 8,222 islands in Australia, you’re guaranteed to find your own personal island paradise. Each island boasts its own unique qualities that are part of what makes Australia unlike anywhere else in the world.
We’ve gathered a list of the top 12 stunning islands in Australia that will have you dreaming of your next island getaway.
1. Kangaroo Island
Image: Alan & Flora Botting on flikr.com
See wildlife the way it was meant to be seen – out in the wild. No place does a zoo without fences better than Kangaroo Island, located off the coast near Adelaide.
Its separation from mainland Australia has allowed for the wildlife to thrive among untouched wilderness. So yes, you’ll see tons of wild kangaroos, but if you want to get close to them head to Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park.
Though the wildlife is the main star of this island, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by the dazzling landscapes. Long stretches of beaches, turquoise waters and spectacular rock formations – no zoo could even touch this.
Head to Seal Bay to walk among sea lions, swim with wild dolphins off the north coast of the island or spot koalas hanging out on eucalyptus trees at Flinders Chase National Park. Don’t miss the stunning Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island’s signature landmark, looking like something straight out of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
2. Phillip Island
Image: Tourism Australia
See the tiniest penguins in the world at Phillip Island, just about two hours away from Melbourne.
Phillip Island is famous for its tiny penguins, but its coastal scenery is just as spectacular in its own right. Gorgeous green landscapes crumble into rugged coasts and pink granite cliffs, stretching out into surf beaches with perfectly barreling waves.
Meet the local wildlife at the Phillip Island Wildlife Park or see koalas in the wild at the Koala Conservation Centre. Stop into one of the local restaurants for a classic fish and chips lunch and visit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for a race on Australia’s largest four-lane GP slot car track.
As the sun sets, settle into Summerland Beach for a spot to catch the nightly Penguin Parade.
3. Fraser Island
Image: Jules Ingall
For an island holiday with a more adventurous vibe, head to Fraser Island, just off the coast of southern Queensland. This unique island is the only place in the world where the beach never ends. Its ancient, cool rainforest towers over white sand, interrupted only by freshwater creeks and the clearest lakes you’ve ever seen.
Pack your swimmers and head to Lake McKenzie, a pure crystal blue lake ringed by soft white sand and verdant rainforest. Honestly, this lake beats out any chemically-treated pool in clarity. And it’s all untouched, pure rainwater!
One of the best ways to explore the island is on a 4WD. Drive down 75 Mile Beach and discover the SS Maheno Shipwreck or find a spot along the beach to try your hand at saltwater fishing. You might spot wild dingoes along the way, but only admire from afar!
4. Rottnest Island
Image: Tourism Australia
One of Australia’s favorite holiday island destinations is Rottnest Island. Located off the coast from Perth in Western Australia, many locals like to reach the island by their own boat. Ferries are also available through three ferry operators along Perth.
Though Western Australia is not often on many traveler’s lists, Rottnest Island alone is enough to add it to your bucket list. Impossibly white sand beaches with crystal turquoise waters offer fantastic swimming and snorkeling. Biking is the best way to explore the island, allowing you to beach and bay-hop across its sublime coasts to find your perfect swimming spot. The best part – no roads!
You’ll also meet Rottnest Island’s famous locals – the quokka. This unique Australian animal is found only in Rottnest Island, and has become popular for its photogenic smile.
5. Bruny Island
Image: Tourism Tasmania
Foodies rejoice! Culinary delights are the star at Bruny Island, perfectly paired with otherworldly landscapes.
About two hours away from Hobart in Tasmania, Bruny Island is well beyond the typical tourist trail. But once you step foot on the island you’ll see why it’s a true hidden gem.
Our favorite Bruny Island tour takes you to local artisanal shops showcasing some of Australia’s finest cheesemaking, chocolatiering and whisky distilling. You’ll also try some freshly shucked oysters, locally grown berries and premium wine. Every course on the menu is a stop on your journey!
Make the small journey to The Neck Lookout and see the isthmus connecting the northern and southern parts of the island. The view from the top is absolutely unbeatable.
6. Moreton Island
Want to get up close with dolphins? Moreton Island is your best bet. Just across Moreton Bay from Brisbane, Moreton Island is a must for dolphin-feeding, kayaking, shipwreck snorkeling and sandboarding.
Yes, sandboarding – it’s exactly like snowboarding except with sand! Riding down the large slopes of sand is a lot more fun than you might realize. You might find yourself climbing the slopes again and again, then simply wash off the sand with a dip at the beach.
With no roads on the island, this unspoiled paradise is perfect for relaxing walks and simply taking in the beauty of untouched nature. Be sure to stay after sunset for the chance to hand-feed wild dolphins at Tangalooma Resort.
7. Magnetic Island
Image: Tourism Queensland
A popular stop along the east coast of Australia is Magnetic Island. Located just 20 minutes off the coast of Townsville in Queensland, Magnetic Island promises extremely laid-back island vibes.
Time seems to be at a standstill on Magnetic Island, or “Maggie,” as affectionately called by locals. It’s easy to lose track of time here and just let the world go by.
Go for a dip in one of many sublime beaches or zip around the island on a hired mini moke, a small convertible perfect for island exploration.
Take the Forts Walk through historic WWII landmarks ending with incredible views across the ocean. Be sure to keep an eye out for koalas hanging around the trees. As home to Australia’s largest population of wild koalas, you’re almost guaranteed to spot one of these furry creatures.
8. Frankland Islands
Image: Frankland Islands Reef Cruises
One of Australia’s truest hidden gems is the Frankland Islands. Located off the northern coast of Queensland near Cairns, these islands are an untouched slice of paradise.
Only one tour operator is licensed to go to Frankland Islands, and their close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef make for perfect small-group snorkeling excursions. The main island, Normanby Island, boasts white sand beaches and clear waters ideal for snorkeling.
The marine biologist on the Frankland Islands tour crew offers guided walks around the island, exploring rock pools rife with exotic marine life.
Complete with an included lunch as you cruise back to Cairns, the Frankland Islands are a fantastic way to experience the Great Barrier Reef without the crowds. Ask our About Australia Destination Specialists about this special tour!
9. Whitsunday Islands
Image: Tourism Australia
Looking for a tropical island paradise? The Whitsunday Islands offer your pick out of 74 impeccable islands.
These islands off the coast of Queensland sit within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and are just as stunning above the water as below the surface.
With only 8 inhabited islands, the rest are natural sanctuaries of secluded beaches and rainforest bushwalks, making for perfect campsites. The fringing reef protects the waters surrounding the islands, making for calm bays perfect for sailing across the islands. And you don’t even need a license to rent a private yacht for bareboat sailing!
One of our favorite Whitsunday Islands is the main, titular island, the largest of all 74. Here is where you’ll find the unparalleled Whitehaven Beach, often listed in the top 10 beaches in the world.
10. Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island is the definition of picture perfect paradise. There’s absolutely no bad angle – everywhere you turn is a postcard-ready scene, just waiting to be captured on camera.
As one of the 8 inhabited Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is an Australian favorite for a luxury getaway. Take in incredible views of the ocean from high-end resort infinity pools, tropical cocktail in hand. Explore the roadless island by golf buggy and indulge in world-class dining at one of many renowned restaurants.
It doesn’t get more luxurious at Hamilton Island than in qualia, a 5-star resort embracing its magnificent surrounds in ultimate, couples-only seclusion. More budget friendly options on Hamilton Island include renting holiday homes. With a buggy included in your rental, you’re free to explore the beautiful palm-fringed, white sand beaches on this idyllic island.
11. Lizard Island
Imagine stepping onto a white sand beach right out your door and seeing one of the world’s greatest natural wonders at your feet.
The best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef is being surrounded by it. Situated right on the reef, no island does this better than Lizard Island.
This small island is home to Lizard Island Resort, an all-inclusive luxury getaway up there with some of the highest-end resorts in the world.
You can snorkel some of the reef’s most pristine and young corals right from the beach, or take a scuba diving trip out to spectacular dive sites such as Cod Hole.
See the reef right from your own private infinity pool, explore the local waters on a private dinghy or walk the lush bushland on nature walks and tracks.
Indulge in gourmet meals, taste local and international wines and enjoy a private beach picnic, all included in your stay.
Lizard Island Resort provides the ultimate luxury deserving of the Great Barrier Reef right at its steps, and will be a getaway you’ll never forget.
12. Lord Howe
Lord Howe Island is like stepping into a Planet Earth documentary. The only hues on this island seem to be endless gradients of blues and greens, hiding an abundance of wildlife.
Located over 300 miles off the eastern coast of Australia, the only way to get to Lord Howe Island is on a two hour flight from Sydney or Brisbane.
Its pristine beaches lend to some of the world’s cleanest and clearest waters perfect for snorkeling. It’s just like swimming in an aquarium!
The island is strewn with easy strolls through lush palms and forests, but for a one-of-a-kind adventure the Mt Gower climb is a must. Rated as one of the best day-treks in the world, this challenging journey takes you on a guided cliff-face mountain climb for a truly rewarding experience.
See Australia’s Breathtaking Islands
Dreaming of an island getaway on your trip to Australia? Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat surrounded by stunning beaches or an adventure unlike anywhere else, Australia’s got an island to suit you perfectly.
Our Destination Specialists are experts in all things Australia. We’ll help you pick the best island for your Australia vacation.
Posted on: August 29th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
You haven’t gone Down Under until you’ve stepped foot on one of the best beaches in Australia.
With stunning coasts lined in white sand beaches and unbelievably clear waters, Australia boasts some of the best beaches in the world.
But with over 10,000 beaches, choosing the best Australian beaches may seem almost impossible.
Though all its beaches are undeniably beautiful, there is something truly special about our picks for the 10 best beaches in Australia.
Surrendering to the laid-back Aussie beach culture is easy once you set eyes on these coastal gems.
Burleigh Heads Beach
The Gold Coast is famed for its long stretches of sun-kissed beaches with boundless waves and endless sunshine.
But as one of Australia’s most popular beach destinations, the increasing crowds and overwhelmingly touristy atmosphere can sometimes take away from the charm of its beaches.
Burleigh Heads Beach is the one exception.
Widely considered by locals as the gem of the Gold Coast, Burleigh Heads combines pristine beach with untouched bush wilderness. The views out toward the Gold Coast skyline add to the stunning panorama.
Its surprisingly clean beach is carefully tended to by locals, remaining relatively unpolluted though situated alongside a major highway.
Host to annual surfing competitions, this is the perfect beach to pick up a surf board and catch fantastic waves.
Vigilant lifeguards patrol several swimming sections and a large parkland area complete with a playground make it a wonderful family destination.
Walking tracks and the fringing Burleigh Heads National Park provide a nice break to the salty waves.
You’ll want to keep an eye out for native wildlife on both land and sea, including brush turkeys, sea eagles, pods of dolphins and even whales.
Main Beach, Noosa
With gentle waves, golden sands and clear waters, Noosa Main Beach is one of the crown jewels of the Sunshine Coast.
Located in Noosa, an idyllic beach resort town about two hours away from Brisbane, Main Beach promises something for everyone.
As one of Australia’s few north-facing beaches, this sun-kissed beach is blessed with endless warmth throughout the whole year.
Its calm and year-round patrolled waters make it perfect for swimming and family beach days.
Take a walk on the boardwalk, shaded with palm trees, and browse the numerous restaurants and cafes lining the beach. Fantastic waterfront dining with incredible views are is just a few steps away.
Main Beach is also perhaps one of the best places in all Australia for beginners to learn how to surf. As one of Australia’s top surfing destination, Noosa boasts many high quality surfing schools headed by professional surfers.
No better way to learn how to surf than with one of the pros!
Further up along the beach at the Noosa Park headland you’ll find long peeling waves with perfect barrels, a surfers’ dream. This is the site of the Noosa Festival of Surfing, a world-class event drawing surfers from around the world to compete in divisions such as long boarding, standup paddle surfing and even dog surfing!
Western Australia, though largely skipped by North American travelers, is home to some of Australia’s most gorgeous beaches.
Known for white sands, turquoise waters and abundant marine life, these gems are slowly gaining popularity for their stunning beauty.
Turquoise Bay encapsulates all the best of Western Australia beaches perfectly, with waters as blue as its name.
Located in Cape Range National Park near the town of Exmouth, this unspoiled beach is an aquatic playground. Crystal clear turquoise waters gently lap at the white sandy shores, teasing at the tantalizing marine life hidden beneath the surface.
Turquoise Bay is perhaps one of the best beaches in Australia for snorkeling. With the fringing Ningaloo Reef less than 200 feet away from the shore, you could almost walk to the reef.
Don on a wetsuit, some flippers and a snorkeling mask and explore the underwater wonderland below.
Confident swimmers can take on the Drift Snorkel, floating along with a current running parallel to the beach and drifting over the colorful reef fish, starfish, sea slugs and even sea turtles below.
As a snorkeler’s paradise, it’ll feel like swimming in a large natural aquarium.
Main Beach, Byron Bay
Grab a classic fish and chip takeaway from one of the many beachside eateries and settle onto the golden sands of Byron Bay’s Main Beach.
You’ll want to stay after dark for the fire dancers.
Known for its roots as an alternative hippy town, Byron Bay has seen tremendous growth over the last few years as artists, musicians and dreamers of all sorts chase the laid back beach life.
As more urban sprawl and development take over Byron Bay, its beaches still retain their natural beauty.
Main Beach, with its long stretch of surprisingly uncrowded and stunning coastline, adds to Byron Bay’s popularity.
Its north-facing curve lends to its fantastic surf break and outstanding sunsets. With the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse overlooking from a distance, the scene appears straight out of a film.
As you spend more time in Byron Bay, you’ll find its picture-perfect scenery stretches beyond Main Beach.
As you sit high astride a camel, walking in rhythm with the camel train along turquoise waters edged by red ochre cliffs, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different world.
The purple and red sky burning to a fiery yellow glow during sunset only adds to the magical atmosphere of Cable Beach.
Located in Broome in Australia’s northwest, Cable Beach and the surrounding region possesses a rich history.
Walk to the southern end of the beach to Gantheaume Point, where red cliffs edged by bright turquoise waters create a stunning contrast breathtaking to behold. At the bottom of the cliffs are real dinosaur footprints over 130 million years old, preserved in reef rock visible at low tide.
Here you’ll also find Gantheaume Point Lighthouse, where you can see dolphins and migrating whales in season.
With soft white sands, aqua blue waters and gentle waves, Cable Beach is perfect for a lazy day and shallow swimming at the beach.
Add in umbrellas, beach chairs, paddle boards and even beach toys for hire and you’ve got a perfect day at Cable Beach.
Opt for an iconic camel ride and stay after dark for an unforgettable end to your Cable Beach day with a spectacular Indian Ocean sunset.
Many great hikes are about the journey as much as the destination, but no hike can beat that first magical glimpse of Wineglass Bay.
Its turquoise waters perfectly curving into a white sandy shore, framed by bush-clad mountains, are an iconic Australian feature.
Take the 45-minute uphill trek through the native bush to the lookout, rewarding you with stunning views over the beach and surrounding scenery.
For a truly rewarding experience, take the 20 minute hike down from the lookout to set foot on the beach. As you walk through the bush and come upon the clearing onto the white sands of Wineglass Bay, you’ll know all the work is worth it.
If you’re not keen on stretching your legs, eco cruises, yacht charters and water taxis departing from Coles Bay in Freycinet National Park offer a scenic way to reach Wineglass Bay.
Sea planes and helicopter flights deliver that incredible iconic view over the beach.
Camping grounds on nearby Coles Bay allow beach lovers to overnight at Wineglass Bay. Nothing can beat lying on the soft sand, gazing up at the endless expanse of the Milky Way spread across the night sky.
Remote, peaceful and unbelievably gorgeous, Wineglass Bay is easily one of the best beaches in Australia.
Undisputed as Australia’s most iconic beach, Bondi Beach is like a self-contained world set along one splendid shore.
As the closest beach to the Sydney CDB, Bondi is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Its curling waves create a tantalizing rhythm drawing you into its unbelievably blue waters. Even in winter you’re bound to see surfers in full body wet suits, unable to resist the tempting waters.
From fine dining to coastal walks, surfing schools to markets, you could easily spend days exploring all Bondi has to offer.
Taste exquisite regional Italian cuisine at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, where unbeatable views over Bondi are accented by a glass of exceptional Aussie wine.
Browse the best fresh produce and artisan eats at the Sunday Bondi Markets, where you can grab a snack and chill on the grass knolls looking out to the beach.
Take on the scenic Bondi to Coogee walk, a clifftop coastal walk winding between some of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches.
Behind the beach lies Gould Street, a boutique shopping strip boasting high-end designers and unique finds.
Head to Bondi early in the morning to claim a patch of sand and catch the sunrise over Sydney.
Glimmering emerald waters pooled into a shallow bay, locked into seclusion by smooth reef- this is the Basin.
Located on Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth, this lovely little spot is one of Western Australia’s greatest treasures.
Its shallow waters, soft white sands and excellent snorkeling close to shore make it popular with families.
Buffalo bream fish and other reef fish swim around your ankles, visible from above the water’s surface.
At the western end of the Basin is a big limestone hill with extraordinary views across the beach and Bathurst Point Lighthouse in the distance.
Summer mornings are the best time to beat the crowds and set up your umbrella and chair.
With the sun shining through the crystal clear waters revealing an aqua glow, a dip is simply irresistible.
Whitehaven Beach is the sort of place you’d probably see in heaven. Its endless gradients of crystal blue waters blended with swirls of pure white sands create an almost celestial scene.
It’s something you truly have to see to believe.
The powdery white sand is 98 percent silica, a substance found in a high-purity form of sand. With extremely fine grains soft to the touch that never retain heat, a walk down Whitehaven Beach is like walking on velvet. No gingerly hopping across the sand, burning your feet to get to the water!
Framed by untouched tropical rainforest and surrounding reef, this pristine beach is nothing short of immaculate. Strict regulations help the beach retain its heavenly state, which not even the occasional Queensland downpour can mar.
Tucked away on Whitsunday Island of the coast of Queensland, this slice of Aussie paradise can only be reached by boat or air. This means little to no crowds even during peak season.
A high speed catamaran takes about half an hour to reach Whitehaven Beach from Airlie Beach. Most other cruises sail at a more leisurely pace, reaching Whitehaven Beach in about two hours.
For a truly spectacular experience, take a scenic helicopter flight to Whitehaven Beach, departing from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island. The aerial views of the pure white sands fused with the stunning blue waters create a breathtaking scene you’ll never forget.
Get a glimpse of the same incredible view on Hill Inlet. The best lookout point is at Tongue Point, just a ten minute uphill walk through the tropical bush of the island. At low tide, when the vivid blue waters are at their most shallow and blend with the snowy-white sands, the scene is almost impossible to behold.
But such impossible beauty is what makes Whitehaven Beach one of the best beaches in Australia.
You’ve seen us mention a lot of pure white sand beaches, but only one can lay claim to having the whitest sand in the world.
And it’s only three hours south of Sydney.
Hyams Beach is famous for having the whitest sand in the world, as backed by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Located in the Jervis Bay region, this beach is part of the White Sands Walk, a trail connecting a series of gorgeous white sand beaches.
Framed by crystal clear turquoise waters, the pristine white sands of Hyams Beach are positively radiant and incredibly soft.
Surrounded by the Booderee National Park and native forests, you’re likely to spot wildlife such as kangaroos, parrots and cormorants.
The clear, shallow waters are irresistible, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Dolphins often swim close to shore, curious and friendly.
The best part is you’ll always find a stretch of beach to lay your towel on. Hyams Beach is a small beachside town with a population of under 300, and you might find yourself parking among the residential areas of the town.
Though its growing popularity continues to attract larger crowds each year, you might easily have the entire beach to yourself, if only for the morning at least.
But a morning in paradise is better than nothing.
Want to See the Best Beaches in Australia?
These beaches are just a the tip of the iceberg of the best beaches in Australia.
With unique features that make them truly stand out from the rest, you’ll want to add these stunning beaches to your list when traveling Down Under.
Our Destination Specialists are ready to help you plan your ultimate beach holiday in Australia.
Posted on: July 10th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
People tend to have two reactions when it comes to Australian animals.
Either their faces light up at the thought of cute kangaroos and koalas, or they actually recoil in horror.
Though several Australian animals are considered dangerous, you’re more likely to get injured from a horse than a snake in Australia.
Over 80% of mammals and reptiles in Australia are found nowhere else on Earth. This makes for some truly fascinating creatures, some famous and others not as well known, to discover in Australia.
Here are 11 unique Australian animals, including some you may not know exist!
No one can resist the cuddly allure of koalas. These iconic Australia animals are marsupials, a kind of mammal that is born undeveloped and is carried in a pouch. Like all marsupials, including kangaroos, wombats and Tasmanian devils, baby koalas are called joeys.
Newborn koalas are called pinkies, born blind and about the size of a jellybean. After birth the pinkie immediately crawls into its mother’s pouch, where it’ll stay for 6 to 7 months. At around 9 to 10 months the joey leaves the pouch for good, ready to munch on a variety of eucalypts. The leaves of these trees are highly toxic and low on nutrition, requiring lots of energy to digest.
This is why koalas spend so much time snoozing so as to preserve energy – often sleeping up to 18-20 hours a day!
What sets the koala apart from other marsupials is that it has no tail. Nonetheless, koalas live high among eucalypts with ease. They mostly hang about in tall eucalypt forests and woodlands of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Contrary to popular belief, the koala is not a bear – though it’s certainly as cute as a teddy bear. Their cuddly exterior makes them appear docicle, and though koalas usually keep to themselves, they can attack if they feel threatened. If spotted in the wild, it’s best to keep a distance.
Where to See Koalas
One of the best places to see koalas in the wild is Kangaroo Island, a natural island sanctuary home to many of Australia’s native animals. This island off the coast of South Australia is surrounded in stunning bays, untouched wilderness and free roaming wildlife, including koalas. It’s the ultimate Australia bucket list destination for animal lovers.
In the state of Queensland, sanctuaries and zoos allow you to hold koalas, so if you’re after that once-in-a-lifetime snapshot with a koala, be sure to do it in Queensland! It’s illegal to hold koalas anywhere else.
Tell anyone you’re going to Australia and one of the first things they’ll ask is if you’re going to feed the kangaroos. And you’ll most likely answer “Yes!”
These native Australian animals are marsupials as well as macropods, meaning “big foot.” Red kangaroos, tall and strongly built, are the largest marsupials and the largest Australian mammal, sometimes standing at over 6 feet tall. Other types of kangaroos include the eastern gray and Kangaroo Island kangaroos, both smaller and tamer than red kangaroos. Gray kangaroos live in the forests of Australia and Tasmania while red kangaroos are found in the eucalyptus woodlands of the Northern Territory.
An old legend about the origin of the name “kangaroo” states that when James Cook asked Aboriginals what these creatures were called, they answered “kangaroo” meaning “I don’t understand your question.”
Though this tale has been proven false, who can resist a good origin story?
Recent linguistic studies uncovered the word “gangurru” from the Aboriginal language of Guugu Yimidhirr, referring to a species of kangaroo and is very likely the source of its name.
Male kangaroos can be very aggressive toward each other, fighting over mates, but kangaroos generally keep to themselves and hop away on sight of a human. With powerful hind legs and a strong tail used as a sort of third leg for balancing, these creatures pack incredible kicks. They’re easily nature’s most skilled kick boxers.
Where to See Kangaroos
You’ll find kangaroos in nearly all Australian wildlife sanctuaries and zoos, but seeing them in the wild is a real special treat. You’re very likely to see them roaming throughout forested national parks with beaches, as well as along the side of the road on the outskirts of major cities. The best time to spot kangaroos in the wild is at dusk.
We’ll admit it – it’s kind of hard to tell wallabies and kangaroos apart. But it gets pretty easy once you see them side by side.
Wallabies are almost an exact miniature of kangaroos. Though they can measure up to 6 feet in height from head to tail, wallabies tend to be much smaller than kangaroos, which can reach up to 8 feet in height from head to tail.
Another way to tell wallabies and kangaroos apart is from their hind legs. Wallabies have more compact legs for moving through dense forest areas while kangaroos have knees and feet set wide apart. Though smaller, their legs allow for tremendous kicks when threatened and are also great for hopping at high speeds. They also tend to be more colorful than their larger cousins, with the yellow-footed wallaby boasting yellow-orange features across its coat.
There are roughly 30 different species of wallabies, grouped by their habitat: shrub wallabies, brush wallabies, and rock wallabies. Larger wallabies tend to be social animals, traveling in groups called mobs. As herbivores, wallabies mainly feast on grasses and plants including flowers, ferns and moss.
Wallabies as a whole are not an endangered species, but there are some species of rock wallabies as well as the banded-hare wallaby that are endangered.
Where to See Wallabies
You’re very likely to see wallabies bounding along the roads in the outskirts of major Australia cities. Locals even report wallabies hanging around gardens and backyards. You’re even likely to see them lying between grapevines of vineyards throughout the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Wildlife parks and zoos are the best spots for seeing wallabies, as these nimble creatures usually dash away at the sight of humans.
When early European settlers posted in Hobart, Tasmania, they came across a strange creature with frightening growls, high-pitched screeches and unearthly screams. Coupled with red ears and disturbingly wide jaws lined with sharp teeth, the settlers decided to call these creatures “devils.” This is how the Tasmanian devil got it’s name, though it may just be the cutest devil ever to grace Australia.
These small creatures almost look like a cross between a small dog and a bear. Their coarse dark fur and round ears give them a baby bear-like appearance, complete with a pudgy build. With a pouch to carry their young, a mother devils can nurse up to four devils at a time.
As the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial, they tend to eat carrion more than hunting live prey. Small native animals such as wallabies, wombats and possums are favorites, though they’ll also devour reptiles, birds and even sheep.
Though nocturnal, devils like to lay out and bask in the sun. They’re huge water lovers, wading and splashing about, even just sitting and laying in water to keep cool. Even devils can’t resist a lazy sunbathing day.
Once present in mainland Australia, Tasmanian devils are now only found on the island state of Tasmania. Loss of habitat and more recently Devil Facial Tumor Disease are the leading causes of declining numbers of devils, now listed as endangered. Though there are huge efforts to minimize the impact of this disease, it’s a difficult task, as this disease is highly contagious among devils. For these brash creatures that often fight over mates, a simple touch is all it takes for the disease to take hold.
Where to See Tasmanian Devils
Though it’s rare to see devils in the wild, you’re more likely to come across them in maintained wilderness refuges and wildlife parks. Some of our favorite places to see devils are the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in northeastern Tasmania and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary just half an hour outside of Hobart.
These stout marsupials look like miniature bears with chunky cheeks. They grow up to 3 feet long and can weigh between 44 and 77 pounds. Their waddling walk and pudgy appearance make them seem slow and docile, but they can run up to 25 miles per hour. As highly territorial creatures, they attack when defending their territory. These nocturnal animals dwell in burrows dug with their long claws.
Like all marsupials, wombats possess a pouch where their young are nurtured for the first few months of life. Unlike most other marsupials, however, the wombat’s pouch faces backwards toward its rear. This is to prevent soil from getting into the pouch as the wombat burrows.
But this strange feature is nothing compared to its poo. Molded by the horizontal ridges of its large intestine, wombat poo is notorious for its cube shape. In this way, the wombat’s cube-shaped poo allows it to stay in place and mark its territory.
Where to see Wombats
You’re most likely to see wombats roaming Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, but it’s rare to see them out in the wild as they are nocturnal creatures. You’ll definitely find them in wildlife parks and zoos, with some offering the opportunity to pet and feed them.
As cute as a dog yet severely misunderstood, the dingo is one of Australia’s most controversial animals. The origin of these creatures is much debated, with recent studies suggesting that dingoes originally migrated from central Asia across land bridges over 18,000 years ago.
Intensely intuitive and intelligent, Houdini has nothing on dingoes. With incredible agility, flexible joints, rotating wrists and fantastic jumping, digging and climbing abilities, dingoes are the ultimate escape artists. They can even rotate their necks up to 180 degrees around. Imagine seeing your dog do that!
Though they share many characteristics with dogs, dingoes are decidedly not dogs at all. They are classed as a unique species called Canis dingo.
Highly individualistic and naturally cautious, dingoes are very curious but are more likely to avoid unfamiliar threats and confrontation. They tend to shy away from humans, rarely showing aggression or attacking.
Although rarely kept as pets, it is legal in the states of New South Wales, Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia to keep a pet dingo with a license. But doing so is not a light task – dingoes require large amounts of space, lots of bonding, and extensive training.
Where to see Dingoes
Most zoos and wildlife parks house dingoes, but if your heart is set on seeing them in the wild, head to Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland.
With teddy bear ears and tiny doe eyes, look for the happiest animal on Earth at Rottnest Island in Western Australia. This small macropod is in the same family as kangaroos and wallabies, with a Mona Lisa smile to add even more cuteness.
These nocturnal creatures are about as large as a common house cat and look like a tiny, chubby kangaroo. They also have a pouch where the baby joey lives in for six months.
When quokkas aren’t eating grasses, shrubs and leaves, they roam around Rottnest Island with the liberty and confidence of a tourist. With no natural predators or traffic on the island, quokkas have grown accustomed to humans and often make attempts to sneak into restaurants and campsites in search of food.
Though it may be tempting to give a quokka a snack, feeding quokkas human food is greatly discouraged. Attacks are extremely rare, but bites have been reported – usually when people are trying to feed them.
It’s also illegal to touch a quokka – they are wild animals after all – but snapshots and selfies are allowed, even highly sought after. As naturally inquisitive creatures, they have little fear of humans and will often approach people on their own, sporting a huge picture-perfect smile.
Where to see Quokkas
Your best chance to see quokkas in the wild will be in Rottnest Island, a popular holiday destination off the coast of Western Australia. This island boasts lovely white sand beaches, stunning coasts and sparkling bays with clear waters perfect for snorkeling.
You’re also very likely to see quokkas in zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia.
The tree kangaroo is very much like a shy toddler hiding behind his mother’s leg. Solitary and elusive, there is still so much to learn about this marsupial. There are 12 known species of tree kangaroo, all looking quite different from each other. Some look like a woolly cross between a bear and a kangaroo with golden and red coats. Others have black and dark brown coats with smooth faces. They typically grow up to 3 feet tall and weigh up to 30 lbs depending on the species.
They dwell among the trees in tropical rainforests of the mountains in Queensland, New Guinea and surrounding islands. Though “kangaroo” is in their name, these creatures do much better among the trees than on the ground below. They hop just like kangaroos but rather awkwardly, leaning far forward to balance their long, heavy tail. They are more bold and agile in trees, hopping across branches with the help of their powerful hind legs and tail.
Tree kangaroos eat mostly fruit, leaves, tree bark and other foliage found in their rainforest habitat. Its average lifespan is unknown, but in captivity they can live for more than 20 years.
Where to see Tree Kangaroos
The only places you’re sure to see tree kangaroos are in zoos and wildlife parks throughout the state of Queensland. But if you’re lucky you might see them in the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns. You might also spot tree kangaroos on the Jungle Surfing tour in Daintree Rainforest!
Imagine being the first person to see a playtpus. Good luck trying to convince anyone that this creature is real! It doesn’t help that this elusive animal is hard to spot – its silvery brown fur blends within the glistening surfaces of the streams and rivers in its habitat.
The platypus is monotreme, a kind of mammal that lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young. There are only four other monotremes, the others being different species of echidnas, another animal endemic to Australia. It’s also one of the few species of venomous mammals in the world. Males have a spur on their hind legs capable of delivering a venom severely painful to humans, though nothing life-threatening.
These contrary features make it a wonder that the playtpus isn’t an extinct creature from long ago. In fact, when scientists first observed a preserved body of a platypus they thought it was fake, made of different animals parts sewn together.
Though the platypus is abundant in the wild, numbers are decreasing, bumping the platypus to a “near threatened” status.
Where to See a Platypus
The platypus is generally found in the riverbanks of Australia’s eastern coast as well as Tasmania. There are only a few wildlife sanctuaries in Australia that house platypus, including the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne.
A special tank called a platypusary is required for housing a platypus. For this reason there are no playtpus in captivity outside of Australia.
These special tanks allow you to see a platypus up close, where its twists and turns in the water will reveal its playful nature.
With a stocky body and a long tail, these spunky creatures are much like a cross between a Tasmanian Devil and a cat. Its white-spotted dark brown coat and dainty pink nose make it look like the star of a cartoon.
But these carnivorous marsupials mean business. Their sharp teeth delight in munching on birds, reptiles and small mammals such as bandicoots, possums and rabbits. Mainly nocturnal animals, quolls will sometimes bask in the sunshine, much like Tasmanian devils.
Females also grow a pouch where their young live for the first few months of life. Like wombats, their pouch opens toward the rear – only the spotted-tail quoll has a true pouch. Larger quolls live up to four to five years while smaller quolls have a lifespan of about two years.
There are four species of quoll native to Australia: the western quoll, eastern quoll, spotted-tail quoll and the northern quoll.
Listed as endangered, major conservation efforts are underway to help preserve quolls and reintroduce some species in the wild. Recently, conservation efforts have led to the successful birth of rare eastern quolls in the wild for the first time in half a century.
Where to See Quolls
Quolls are native to the eastern coast of Australia while eastern quolls are found only in Tasmania. You’re not very likely to see them in the wild outside of dedicated nature park refuges, so your best bet is to see them in wildlife parks and zoos.
It wouldn’t be surprising at all if lyrebirds are in fact robots in disguise. With incredible abilities to mimic chainsaws, camera shutters and toy guns, lyrebirds are easily one of Australia’s most impressive birds.
Some reports even swear to hearing lyrebirds mimic human speech.
Lyrebirds, found in the rainforests of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, pick up sounds from their surrounding environment. It’s able to recreate such fantastic sounds through the complex muscles of its syrinx. It takes up to one year for the lyrebird to hone its song, made up of calls from other birds. These vocalizations easily fool other birds, often responding to the lyrebird’s call.
And if such impressive tunes are not enough, male lyrebirds will display their gorgeous lyre-shaped plumes during courtship.
With such charming features, the lyrebird will surely win a mate.
There are two species of lyrebirds: the superb lyrebird and the Albert’s lyrebird, named after Prince Albert. As ground dwelling birds, they rarely take flight. Though the status of lyrebirds is “near threatened,” they are currently not an endangered species.
Where to See Lyrebirds
The lyrebirds at Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne love to show-off their songs to visitors. Spot wild lyrebirds in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, both just an hour away from Melbourne.
Want to See Australia’s Unique Wildlife?
Known for its array of fascinating native wildlife, a trip to Australia isn’t complete without at least petting a koala or kangaroo.
But once you step inside a wildlife park, you’ll discover so many more breathtaking Australian animals you might’ve not known existed.
If seeing Australia’s wildlife is a huge bucket list item for you, we know the best places for unforgettable wildlife experiences.
Posted on: April 10th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Why You Should Visit the Gold Coast
Sun-kissed skin, sunny beach days, stunning rainforests and iconic Australian moments are what the Gold Coast is all about.
Whether the beach calls your name or you’re after adventure, the Gold Coast awaits.
Get a peek into the good times that never end – even after the sun sets. Here are our 8 reasons why you should visit the Gold Coast right now.
Boundless Beach Days
The Gold Coast boasts a fabulous collection of Australia’s best beaches. Their crystal blue waters, incredible surf breaks and breathtaking high-rise backdrops make Gold Coast beaches irresistible to any kind of beach goer.
Venture to Surfers Paradise Beach, the famous beach hotspot of the Gold Coast, and roll out a towel for a lazy sun-kissed day.
The new foreshore at Surfers Paradise is bustling throughout the day with walkers, cyclists and skateboarders taking advantage of this beachfront boulevard vista overlooking the surf and sand.
Like the Surfers Paradise of yesteryear, beachside shopping, dining, bars and clubs continually offer the complete holiday experience all in one compact destination package.
Broadbeach, south of Surfers Paradise is a precinct full of cafes, restaurants, retailers and is a friendly beachfront. Just a little further down the coast is Burleigh Heads, acclaimed for its beachside village vibe and array of excellent cafes.
Visitors flock to the Southern Gold Coast for its change of pace. From here, you can look back towards the Surfers Paradise skyline in the distance and really feel you’ve slowed down.
The surf is spectacular and the southern suburbs exude old-school beachside charm combined with world-class oceanfront hotels, restaurants and an array of retro festivals.
Live Like a Local
If you are looking for the quintessential “Aussie lifestyle” then head to the Gold Coast with its miles of sandy beaches, urban sophistication and incredible natural environment.
The city’s growth and continuing popularity as Australia’s number one holiday destination is a testament to the relaxed vibes and welcoming atmosphere that the city exudes.
The Gold Coast offers a variety of opportunities to scratch beneath the surface and live like a local.
Drop into one of it’s seriously cool micro-breweries that offer live music and food trucks, or browse its vibrant street food markets. Join the “clubbies” at the local volunteer Surf Life Saving club for a drink and world class views.
Or just take some food down to the beach, fire up one of the free BBQ’s, grab a spot among the locals and take it all in.
Conquer Your Fear of Heights on the SkyPoint Q1 Climb
Sure, the Q1 Resort tower is the highest point in all of Gold Coast, but don’t let that scare you!
The SkyPoint Climb at Q1 is Gold Coast’s answer to Sydney’s Bridge Climb, and an absolute must-do for the best views over Gold Coast.
Starting on level 77 of SkyPoint Observation Deck, you’ll shimmy into a full body suit and strap on a harness before a safety training by a professional and friendly guide.
Harnessed to a purpose-built safety rail system, you’ll find the guided climb up to to the summit unbelievably easy. As the best way to see the true beauty of the Gold Coast, the 360 degree views make the climb truly worth it. The swells of the ocean against the coast, the lush hinterland and even views from Brisbane to Byron Bay are all yours to take in.
Rise with the sun on a morning climb or watch the city lights illuminate the evening with a night climb. You can even include a dining option with your climb – the night climb boasts a delicious shrimp tagliatelle!
As one of the best photo ops in Gold Coast, your guide will snap photos of you and your group with the backdrop of the gorgeous city skyline in the distance. By then you’ll have forgotten all about any fear of heights!
Taste the Incredible Food Scene
The Gold Coast’s food scene has evolved so much in the last few years, it’s a full-time job just keeping up with the latest openings.
From hatted restaurants (the Australian equivalent to Michelin stars), quirky cafes and food trucks to wine bars and craft beer taphouses, there’s something for every palate.
Relish elegant beachfront hotel dining in Surfers Paradise or sample delectable seafood on rooftop restaurants in Burleigh Heads. Get your Asian fusion mix in Broadbeach, where you’ll find creative dishes to delight your taste buds.
The locals swear by street eats such as ramen from Muso and Double Zero’s Neapolitan style pizza.
Chill out at al fresco eateries such as Sandbar with its brunch seaside menu, or see why the good tunes and pizza of Justin’s Rooftop make it a popular favorite with the locals.
Get Up Close with Wildlife at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the unsung attraction of the Gold Coast, home to one of the world’s largest collections of native Australian wildlife.
Catch the mini train circling around the sanctuary for easy access to the various exhibits and encounters.
Here you can pet the curious kangaroos and feed the rainbow lorikeets perched on your shoulder.
Watch an exciting crocodile feeding or catch the Dingo Walk, where you’ll get to feel the stunning white coat of Marrok, a pure white alpine dingo. Don’t miss your chance for that iconic Australia photo shoot while holding a koala!
For a unique experience, visit the hospital where you can witness the conservation team operate on sick and injured animals. The vets warmly welcome visitors and explain every aspect of their process. Now THAT’S getting up close and personal!
Head for the Hills in the Gold Coast Hinterland
Hidden beneath the Gold Coast’s bold first impression is a serene hinterland filled with thriving rainforests, stunning waterfalls and fantastic walking trails. The best part is it’s all within just an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Gold Coast.
Venture into the ancient, world heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests and explore its gorgeous national parks. Lamington National Park offers plenty of walking trails for all fitness levels, decorated by cascading waterfalls along the way. Walk among the shady tree canopies on the Tree Top Walkway near O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.
Take a break from the sand and find your zen in the swimming holes throughout the forest, such as the Currumbin Rock Pools.
Springbrook National Park is full of hidden gems such as caves, spectacular waterfalls and a natural bridge arch. Wherever you’re wandering throughout the rainforest, keep an eye out for kangaroos and wallabies peeking out from their bush retreats!
Catch these unique pockets of the rainforest you might’ve otherwise missed on a small group tour, our favorite way to explore the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Shop ‘Til You Dop
You won’t find a love for local markets and high-end shops alike greater than the at the Gold Coast.
Feel the bohemian vibes of the Village Markets at Burleigh Heads, where you’ll find boutique stalls of fashionable and locally designed clothes along with delicious street eats.
Luxury shopping gets no better than at Pacific Fair’s offer of high-end designer digs and glamorous department stores.
An experience unto itself is Harbour Town, Australia’s largest outlet shopping center featuring premium Australian and international brands. In other words, a shopaholic’s dream.
Stay Up Late
When the sun goes down, the adults play.
By night, the Gold Coast’s vibrant nightlife welcomes the party-loving night owls, cocktails in hand, at laid-back music venues and rooftop bars.
Energetic, enthusiastic, electric, eclectic! These are just some of the words that sum up the social scene that Surfers Paradise was built on. Surfers Paradise comfortably maintains its position as the good-times hub of the Gold Coast.
For a generous flow of craft beer, stop by Balter Brewery for a nice, cold pint and hang out with its down-to-earth crowd.
Indulge in exuberant luxury at The Star’s 24-hour casino or mingle with the locals at a true Gold Coast rooftop icon – The Island.
Experience a taste of international street food and nightlife at Miami Marketta, a small venue housing 25 food vendors and fantastic live music.
Whether you’re looking for a wild night out in the city or a more relaxed end to your day, the Gold Coast’s extensive nightlife has something for all night-owls.
Ready to Go to the Gold Coast?
Incredible beaches, lush hinterland, theme parks – there’s no end to the reasons to visit the Gold Coast.
This iconic tourist destination is a must for a glimpse into the quintessential “Aussie lifestyle.”
Feeling the call of the Gold Coast? Let’s start planning your trip today! As experts in Australian travel, we’ll help plan your vacation to include a stay in the Gold Coast. We know it’ll be a highlight of your trip!
Posted on: April 4th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Forever a huge draw to Australia, seeing the Great Barrier Reef never fails to inspire a huge rush of emotions.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is on the bucket list for nature-lovers and travelers alike.
But what is seeing the reef really like?
Are the colors and marine life as vibrant as you see in the postcards?
Is the reef still quite a sight to see?
Our clients weigh in on their Great Barrier Reef experience – and some unexpected surprises.
“We loved the helicopter ride at the reef because it gave us a feel for how large the reef is.”
Photo by: Sheri Hardin
With a scenic helicopter ride over the reef, Sheri Hardin was able to take in the immense size of the reef from a different perspective.
When you’re snorkeling up close to intricate coral gardens and gazing at the colors around you, it’s easy to forget the enormous size of the reef.
Made up of over 900 islands stretching over 1,600 miles along the coast of Queensland, the reef is approximately the same area size as Japan – and visible from outer space!
This means no two spots of the reef are the same – the marine and reef life in the northern part of the reef is different to that in the south.
But the reef takes on an entirely different look when gazed at from above.
The tantalizing blue waters of the reef blend into almost luminescent shades of turquoise – truly breathtaking to behold.
“I did not know snuba was available but was happy it was. It’s like scuba diving but you pull your tank above you.”
Sheri Hardin snuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns
Fascinated with the reef by air, Sheri wanted to go beyond snorkeling to get as up close to the reef as possible.
From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles, she could easily see the reef without even dipping a toe in the water.
But Sheri felt a little courageous. Though scuba diving seemed daunting, she found the perfect balance with snuba.
With the help of marine biologists, tourism operators are always coming up with new, safe ways to see the reef.
One of these new ways rapidly gaining popularity is snuba, a perfect combination of snorkeling and scuba diving.
After strapping on her snorkeling gear, a snuba harness and light weight belt, Sheri was ready to go.
Breathing from a scuba mouthpiece through a long air line attached to a floating air tank, she explored the reef with ultimate freedom.
No need to come up for air, no heavy equipment weighing her down. No diving experience necessary and easier than snorkeling.
The best part was seeing those hidden sea creatures easily missed by snorkelers!
“The Barrier Reef was great…We were thrilled!”
Barbara McHuron on a helmet dive at the Great Barrier Reef
Although Barbara McHuron is terrified of the water, she was determined to see the reef in its full glory.
Glass bottom boats and semi-submersibles wouldn’t cut it.
After taking swimming lessons just for this trip to the reef, she was ready for a helmet dive.
Another fantastic way for non-swimmers to see the reef, helmet dives allow you to breath normally while walking among the fish and corals.
Once the crew secured the diving helmet on her, Barbara walked down the ramp steps to an underwater reef platform.
She was immediately greeted by curious fish as fascinated with her helmet as she was by them.
“Our favorite moment was when the crew did a fish feeding and the bigger fish came up to the barge.”
On her Great Barrier Reef excursion, Haley Olson and her husband were given stinger suits for protection.
Stinger season was approaching, and it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
This turned out to be a good call after all, as they caught glimpses of jellyfish floating by.
But with the impenetrable protection of their stinger suits and the abundance of marine life in the water below, they quickly forgot about these stingers.
With colorful tropical fish of different sizes and incredible coral formations, it’s easy to get lost in the underwater wonderland of the reef.
Even more amazing is when a gigantic blue fish swims up to you and refuses to leave until you pet him.
Who knew fish could be so social?
On the Great Eight list of the Great Barrier Reef, the curious Humphead or Maori Wrasse fish is known to swim right up to snorkelers and divers.
This large blue fish grows up to 6 feet in length and weighs up to 400 pounds – quite the friendly giant!
Excursions out to the reef often include a fish feeding. Among the hungry frequenters is a Maori wrasse, charming Haley with its friendliness and dazzling shades of blue and green.
“I immediately came back up from the water and cried!”
Photo Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland/Fabrice Jaine
After donning on her fins and snorkel mask, Gretchen Ibarra carefully lowered herself into the water from the reef pontoon. She couldn’t see any coral at first, as there was something blocking her view.
A giant, curious manta ray had made its way close to Gretchen for a quick ‘hello!’
Gazing at the manta ray for a few moments, she rushed back to the water’s surface, eyes filling with tears.
The crew immediately congratulated her – this was a moment many people only dream about.
Also slated as one of the Great Eight of the Great Barrier Reef, these majestic and harmless creatures are big bucket list items for snorkelers and divers. As shy creatures that keep mostly to themselves, manta rays remain a bit of a mystery.
With a wingspan of up to 22 feet, seeing these creatures up close is an incredible experience you just have to see to believe. It’s like seeing a small car just glide past you underwater!
You’ll find manta rays hanging out in the waters of Lady Elliot Island, Osprey Reef, Heron Island and Lady Musgrove Island. The best time to see them is during the Australian winter months in May and June.
“A lot of people say the Reef is dead, but that’s not true. The locals say it is on a slow recovery right now and is still quite the sight to see!”
Nicholas Culhane posing with a sea turtle.
Any fears Nicholas Culhane felt on his first diving trip were quelled by the extremely knowledgeable and outgoing crew onboard. His comfort was their utmost priority.
And as often happens – after his first dive, Nicholas couldn’t get enough.
But nothing could prepare him for the exhilarating rush when a sea turtle and 5-foot long reef shark joined him on a swim!
From parrotfish to clownfish to giant clams and reef sharks, the marine life he saw on the outer reef was plentiful and thriving.
More than 1,500 species of fish, over 300 species of molluscs, 30 species of whales and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles call this reef their home.
Despite recent coral bleaching events affecting coral systems around the globe, the reef remains one of the healthiest and most protected reefs in the world.
Standard excursions out to the reef are joined by marine biologists who provide a wealth of information regarding the health of the reef and marine life.
In fact, tourism operators play an important role in managing its recovery and helping visitors learn about the reef.
Ready to See the Great Barrier Reef?
Arguably Australia’s most precious natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef is a must for any traveler visiting from around the world.
No matter the kind of person you are – whether you’re terrified of the water or can’t get enough – there’s a way to see the reef perfect just for you.
Glorious and packing unexpected surprises, the unparalleled diversity and natural beauty of the reef awaits.
Posted on: March 20th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
One of Australia’s many unique qualities is its dynamic coastline.
You’ve got warm tropical waters and the Great Barrier Reef in the north, Australia’s best collection of beaches along the central east coast and towering cliffs in the south.
One of the most popular and dream travel itineraries in Australia is traveling along its east coast.
You’ll find travelers from around the world making their way from Cairns in the tropical north all the way to Melbourne in the south.
But we’ll show you the best destinations you must visit while traveling along Australia’s east coast.
See the Great Barrier Reef
Whether you’re in Cairns or Port Douglas, you can’t pass up seeing the Great Barrier Reef.
This must-do in Australia is so insanely popular for good reason. It’s the largest living organism in the world yet looks entirely otherworldly.
Nothing beats those underwater views of this colorful reef wonderland, filled with tropical fish flitting in and out of sight.
The great thing about the reef is the numerous ways to see it. From glass bottom boats to semi-submersibles and underwater viewing observatories, you can see the reef without getting wet!
To see the ultimate splendor and beauty of the reef, you’ll need to take a trip to the outer reef. Check out our Great Barrier Reef guide for more details on seeing the reef in your own style.
Sail the Whitsunday Islands
Not many international travelers know about this hidden part of Australia. Situated between Cairns and the Sunshine Coast, this region sits on the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.
Surrounded by 74 idyllic islands and protected by the reef, the calm waters make this a paradise for sailing and bareboating.
And the 74 Whitsunday Islands are your playground of pristine wilderness.
Mostly covered in uninhabited national parks and secluded beaches, the Whitsundays are just waiting to be explored by the adventurous.
Be the first to walk on untouched beaches each morning. Discover cascading waterfalls and dry rainforest walking trails hidden on the islands. Or even camp overnight at designated camping grounds.
The best part is no license is required for bareboating!
See the Tantalizing Swirls of Whitehaven Beach from Hill Inlet
Let’s face it – there ‘s no end to the list of gorgeous beaches in Australia. You’ll find fantastic beaches all along the coast.
But there’s only a few that rank among the best in the entire world, and Whitehaven Beach is always counted in that number.
With sparkling, white sand so fine it squeaks beneath your feet and waters so clear and blue like something out of Photoshop, this beach is a gem of the Whitsundays.
Located on Whitsunday Island, you’ll need to take a boat tour to get to Whitehaven Beach.
Once you arrive, you’ll want to take the short trek to Hill Inlet, where swirls of white sand and turquoise water blend in stunning shades.
The sight alone is worth a trip to the Whitsundays.
Spot Whales in Hervey Bay
If you’re in Australia with the hopes of spotting a whale, you should make a stop in Hervey Bay. This coastal city near Fraser Island is one of Australia’s best spots for whale watching.
Between July and October you’ll spot humpback whales swimming by Hervey Bay – sheltered by Fraser Island, the calm and clear waters are perfect for resting their young.
Setting out on a whale watching cruise sometimes entails an amazing perk – the whales often like to venture close to the boats, showing off with spectacular breaches!
Go for a Dip in Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island
As the world’s largest sand island and only site where rainforest grows on sand, Fraser Island is out to impress.
And with pristine freshwater lakes, creeks framed in greenery and long stretches of beaches prime for 4wd adventure, this island will become your next ‘happy place.’
Though the beaches at Fraser Island are not quite swimmer-friendly, Lake McKenzie more than makes up for it.
With soft white sand and unbelievably crystal blue water, Lake McKenzie is considered the crown jewel of Fraser Island. After one day on the lake here, no other lake will measure up.
Discover Hidden Gems in the Noosa National Park
For the perfect mix of coastal scenery, native wildlife and refreshing rainforest, spend a day at the Noosa National Park.
You’ll spot something new and breathtaking every way you turn. Koalas napping among eucalyptus trees, spectacular hidden bays and beaches, even wild dolphins and whales – this enviable national park has it all.
Boasting five walking tracks, the most popular is the Coastal Walk, winding through lush shady trees, rocky coasts and clifftops.
Stop for a refreshing dip at the beach in Tea Tree Bay and spot dolphins from Dolphin Point or Hell’s Gate.
Becoming increasingly popular with travelers, this hidden secret is a must on the Australian east coast.
Walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse at Cape Byron
Byron Bay sees the sunrise first in all of Australia. That alone sets the tone of this coastal town – the atmosphere is like a perpetual bohemian festival.
Everyone is super relaxed, smiles are found at every turn and the surrounding natural beauty and sunshine cures all ailments.
This easy-going town is a favorite with Aussies – you’ll find that most visitors are in fact from within Australia.
And locals agree that an absolute must-do is the coastal walk up to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. Follow the boardwalk on Lighthouse Road, winding around irresistible beaches and surf breaks.
You’ll then ascend up the headland for sea cliff views over Byron Bay and climb up the track to the lighthouse. Your reward is the unbelievable view over Cape Byron – pristine blue water set against green coastal bush, all from the most easterly point of the Australian mainland.
For breathtaking views along the coast in Sydney, you could do no better than the Bondi to Coogee Walk. This clifftop coastal walk stretches out almost four miles long, winding on the edge of some of Sydney’s most popular beaches.
This track is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, and is often broken up into sections: Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach and Bronte to Coogee Beach. With many rest stops, beaches and rock pools along the way, you’ll find yourself stopping throughout the track just basking in the beauty of it all.
Make a day of it and start with a morning swim and beachside breakfast at Bondi, rest at Bronte and spend the afternoon at Coogee.
Or do it all in one go and complete a jog along the track – with stunning ocean views at your side, you’ll enjoy this incredible coastal walk either way.
Road Trip Down the Great Ocean Road
The first thing you need to know about the Great Ocean Road is that it’s named for its magnificent beauty – but also for its length.
Posted on: February 21st, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
The Best Australia Food and Wine for a Coastal Vacation
The food and wine scene across Australia is constantly setting trends and becoming a bucket list destination for foodies everywhere.
On the east coast you’ll find an abundance of the world’s fresh seafood and waterfront dining with a tropical flair. You’ll also find that Hunter Valley and the Barossa are not Australia’s only premier wine regions. The Margaret River wine region in Western Australia is a must-do for any wine lover.
Noosa is a bit of a hidden secret in Australia. With fantastic beaches, lush national parks, world-class dining and shopping, this is the place Aussies go for a beach holiday close to home.
The food and wine scene in Noosa is quickly becoming one of the best in all Australia. You’ll find everything from award-winning waterfront dining along the Noosa River to a motorcycle-themed bar serving craft beer and coffee.
Treat yourself in this beach city gem and indulge in one of our must-do restaurants while in Noosa.
Sails – No local can deny that Sails is a Noosa institution. Framed by the serene views of Noosa Main Beach, vibrant seafood delightfully presented and an extensive wine list – pure tropical bliss.
Wasabi– Some of the best views of the Noosa River are found at Wasabi. A sunset sitting is perhaps the best complement to its traditional Japanese cuisine. Their Omakase degustation menu features a seven or nine course meal highlighting ingredients sourced from their own local farm, Honeysuckle Hill. You’ll find tried and true favorites like sashimi and nigiri along with regional dishes such as Moreton bay oysters and sake steamed spanner crab.
Locale– Wander down to the end of Hastings Street to perhaps the most down-to-earth restaurant in Noosa: Locale. Sleek and sophisticated Italian cuisine meets lush alfresco dining in this local favorite. Their prawns and zucchini flowers are popular starters, but you’ll be dreaming about their squid ink pasta for days. Their wine list is also a dream, ranging from champagne to shiraz and everything in between.
Season Restaurant– Attentive and professional service with a charm as relaxed as its beach setting, Season is another Hastings Street favorite. Book ahead for a beach side table, but don’t fret if you don’t get that coveted seat – the real star of Season is the seafood curry.
Noosa Beach House – If you’re coming to Noosa Beach House, you’re coming for the signature Sri Lankan Snapper curry. Can’t decide from their small menu? Opt for the degustation menu and delight in six courses featuring roasted pork belly, wagyu sirloin, local spanner crab along with an Amuse Bouche. A little bit of everything with a little something extra!
As the capital city of tropical Queensland, Brisbane combines urban city living with beachside relaxation. And as the third largest city in all of Australia, there no doubt Brisbane is becoming a contender for some of the nation’s best food scenes.
Here are the top Brisbane restaurants to stop at for world-class wining and dining.
Sono Restaurant – Looking for the best sushi in Brisbane? Or perhaps the best seafood, period? Look no further than Sono. Boasting Brisbane’s freshest sashimi, exciting teppanyaki and amazing views of the Brisbane River, this Japanese and seafood dining experience is unreal. And with Moreton Bay just a little ways down the river, their Moreton Bay Bugs are a must.
Urbane – If you have an entire afternoon free, that may be just enough time to dine at Urbane. Here, it’s all about dining at your own leisure where friendly and personable attendants will remember your name. The service is definitely one of the top reasons Urbane is listed as the top restaurant in Queensland. Their five and seven course degustation menus featuring Australian and vegetarian cuisine undoubtedly contribute to their well-deserved awards.
Bacchus– This is perhaps the best place for that first dip into Australian fine dining. Extremely knowledgeable and approachable staff will dash away any qualms you have about asking what exactly is on your plate. That’s just a testament to the impressive presentation. And with a menu detailing the exact region where each dish is sourced, you’ll soon become an expert on your own meal. Pair your seven course degustion meal with wine or choose a decadent dish from their a la cart menu. The venison main dish is a popular hit.
Malt– Satisfy any cravings for duck at Malt, where this consistent favorite is cooked to crispy perfection. Add in generous wine pours, a rustic-chic setting and live piano performances for an evening of utter romance.
Gerard’s Bistro– Tantalize your taste buds with Brisbane’s take on Middle Eastern cuisine at Gerard’s Bistro. Get cozy with your dining partner as these dishes are made for sharing. And you’ll want to get a little taste of everything, with tasty dishes such as coal-grilled octopus, suckling pig and fried cauliflower.
Mount Tamborine and Surrounding Wineries
The vacation never ends when you’re in the Gold Coast. Sunny beaches, wild theme parks and a buzzing nightlife – it’s got everything you need to wind down and get loose.
But for a more quiet retreat, the Gold Coast Hinterland will enchant with its lush national parks, waterfalls and charming towns.
In this region you’ll find Mount Tamborine, known as the “Green Behind the Gold.” And with breathtaking scenery, clean mountain air and award-winning wineries, we feel their gold is well deserved.
O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard– With a fabulous picnic lunch on offer to complement their gorgeous grounds, this is the winery of your fantasies. That is, if you dream about a gourmet picnic by Canungra Creek, sipping on a glass of wine while looking out to the turtles in the water. If you’re lucky you may spot the elusive resident platypus!
Witches Falls Winery– If you’ve only got time for one winery visit while in the Gold Coast, Witches Falls Winery is the place to go. Passionate and friendly service, local cheeses and six wine tastings for $6 – it’s hard to go wrong here.
Ocean View Estate– For a boutique winery with serious food, Ocean View Estate is a must. It’s difficult to say which is their main draw – their superb wines or their extensive and carefully curated menu. And for the non-wine lovers out there, they do their own craft beer as well!
Albert River Wines– Got a special occasion coming up? Albert River Wines provides the perfect setting for any celebration. High quality dishes such as barramundi and veal provide an impressive dining experience, surrounded in the colonial charm of a historic home. Add in a taste of their sauvignon blanc or their popular red blends for a splendid day in the Gold Coast hinterland.
Most people only experience Australia’s east coast on their first vacation Down Under.
But Australia’s west coast offers an otherworldly charm that shouldn’t be missed. Repeat visitors from around the world are drawn to Western Australia’s surreal national parks, a burgeoning food scene and fantastic wine regions.
Perth, the nation’s sunniest capital city is the main base for exploring the best of this region’s food and wine. Chic eateries and European-style bars are tucked in its inner city laneways, and fine dining is found within the CBD.
Here are the top spots in Perth worth a stop for a little indulgence.
Wildflower – The tasting menu at Wildflower not only offers exceptional Australian cuisine but also rotates according to the six seasons of the indigenous Noongar calendar. Each dish celebrates local ingredients throughout the changing of the seasons. This is the sort of attention that makes Wildflower a local favorite. The stunning views of the Swan River definitely help.
Petite Mort – Petite Mort is a bit of a hidden secret, where French and Australian cuisine meet in a three or ten course menu. Ingredients full of color and flavor are paired together on elegantly presented dishes. The ten course degustation menu is a favorite for its corned silverside and quail egg dish along with its signature dessert – “Death By Chocolate.”
C Restaurant in the Sky– It’ll be difficult for anything to top the views at C Restaurant. Literally. This upscale restaurant is located in the slowly revolving 33rd floor of St. Martins Tower, lending to incredible 360 degree views of the city. What better way to spend an evening than indulging in fresh seafood or tender pork belly while looking out onto the Swan River and city lights?
Varnish on King– This hidden gem of a whiskey bar is quickly becoming a Perth institute. The Bacon Flight – four generous cuts of bacon matched with whiskey – is a bucket list item for true Perth foodies. And if you’re not into whiskey, they have a Rose and Bacon flight as well!
When looking for things to do in Perth the most common response is a day trip out to Margaret River. With stunning natural beauty, craft breweries and countless wineries, this region provides so much more than one day’s worth of adventure.
Known for its cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, you’ll find just as delectable white wine varieties throughout the region.
Leeuwin Estate– World-class chardonnay, free tastings and amazing food – this is one of Wilyabrup’s finest wineries. Its sensational vintages also helped put this region on the wine map. Though there’s a fee to taste their Art Series wines, offering perhaps Australia’s best chardonnay, the price is totally worth it.
Cullen Wines– Considered a gem of the region, this family-run winery is 100% biodynamic. The ingredients used in their sophisticated menu are all sourced from their gardens and local surrounds. That’s right – not only will you find exquisite red blends but you’ll also find a divine menu with dishes such as rabbit, duck and barramundi. Come for the wine, stay for the food.
Fraser Gallop– Like a scene out of a movie, the Fraser Gallop Estate grounds are undoubtedly the most beautiful in all of Wilyabrup. And their serious, built-to-last Parterre Cabernet Sauvignon is just as stunning.
Woodlands– Personal and friendly tastings make their elegant cabernet sauvignon all the more pleasurable. Friendly and knowledgeable staff create the cozy and family-feel atmosphere this cellar door is well-known for. An asset to the charm of Wilyabrup Valley.
Voyager Estate– A bucket list item for premier Margaret River wining and dining. Delectable degustation with wine pairings, rose gardens and wine and cheese flights – this is a slice of paradise. If you still aren’t impressed, perhaps their flagpole – Australia’s second largest flag and flagpole – will do the trick.
Ready for a Little Indulgence in Australia?
Aussies love their food and drink, and love sharing the best places even more. For more recommendations on the best food and wine in Australia, your Destination Specialist can give you insider tips. We’ll make it all the more easier to plan your food and wine trail throughout your vacation Down Under!