Article and Pictures by Heather and Barry Minton
We were looking forward to a family vacation in Queensland, Australia’s north-eastern state. Queensland’s weather is tropical; it can be extremely hot, up to 40deg.Celsius with a humidity of up to 90% during the summer. We chose to travel in September, which is generally cooler, averaging 30deg.Celsius and only 60% humidity which is still hot compared to our spring weather in Melbourne.
We flew a direct four hour flight from Melbourne to the city of Cairns, with our daughter, son-in-law and grand children. Cairns, in the north of the state, is the gateway to the beautiful world heritage Daintree Rainforest to the north, National Parks and waterfalls of the Atherton Table Lands to the east and a coastline flanked by the Great Barrier Reef which is recognized as one of the great natural wonders of the world.
We stayed at the luxurious and beautiful “The Lakes Resort” in well appointed self contained apartments. We had a choice of three swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasium, sauna, and spas. As the resort is situated north of the main city centre, we were able to catch a courtesy bus, which departs hourly, calling at the major suburban shopping centres, the city centre, markets and ending at the foreshore and marina. We also found a small shopping centre with takeaway outlets within easy walking distance of the resort.
There was plenty of night life for the adults, including the Reef Hotel Casino as well as a modern boat marina and club house with “state of the art” facilities.
We decided not to hire a car as everything was easily accessible. There were a wide variety of tours available and we were collected from the hotel and returned there at the end of most tours.
We enjoyed a fun tour from Cairns taking the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to Kuranda in the Atherton Tablelands and returning via the Kuranda Scenic Railway.
As the Skyrail climbs the mountain there are two stations where you can walk through the rainforest and take in the spectacular views across to Cairns and the coast.
There were also educational displays with information on the local flora and fauna.
The village of Kuranda offered a variety of things of interest for the visitor. There was a great mix of snack bars, restaurants, shops and markets. Also of interest was The Kuranda Koala Gardens Wildlife Park, a Butterfly Sanctuary, a Spider and Venom Zoo and the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park.
The village of Kuranda and the railway line down the mountain to the coast were established in the mid 1800s when logging and mining were large industries on the Atherton Tablelands.
The trip in the fully restored timber carriages took us through The Barron Gorge National Park that was carved by the Barron River over 400 million years ago. The heritage listed scenic railway traveled through steep ravines and past majestic waterfalls that cascade from ancient rainforests. The short 37 kilometres of track descended 328 metres and includeed 15 tunnels, 37 bridges and 98 curves.
Another great day was spent on a Sunlover Reef Cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. We boarded the catamaran at the Cairns Marina for the two hour journey to Moore Reef. Travelling in air conditioned comfort while we relaxed with coffee and snacks.
On the journey we were extremely lucky to witness a Humpback whale and her calf making their way south. They came so close to the boat that the Captain had to stop the engine and idle for about 20 minutes for the safety of both us and the whales.
When we arrived at the Reef we disembarked onto Sunlovers large, shade covered pontoon.
The amenities included a marine naturalist presentation, all snorkeling equipment and instruction, glass bottom boat tours, and semi-submersible vessel tours.
There was also a fish feeding presentation to be viewed from the underwater observatory.
A full buffet lunch, tea and coffee were also included in the ticket price. Scuba diving instruction and facilities were available at a small extra cost.
We also took a day trip to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. This area was named by Captain James Cook in 1770 as the place where his “trials and tribulations” began. His ship “HMS Endeavour” struck a reef (now named Endeavour Reef) and nearly sank. They managed to tow the ship with row boats up the coast and eventually beached for repairs in the Endeavour River near where Cooktown now stands.
We were collected at our resort and began our day with a scenic drive north from Cairns through Mosman to the Daintree River for a wildlife cruise where we saw a number of crocodiles in their natural habitat and other wildlife that abounds in this area.
We then took a walk through the rainforest on the Marradja Botanical Boardwalk with our driver/guide who pointed out various trees and shrubs and explained to us the ones that were dangerous and others that had medicinal properties.
On arrival at Cape Tribulation, we enjoyed a walk on the beach “where the rainforest meets the reef” before meeting at PK’s Jungle Village for a tasty lunch.
During the return trip we crossed the Daintree River on a vehicle ferry that is cable operated.
We also took a walk along the bank of the Mossman River and on the way home stopped for afternoon tea at Port Douglas. This small town has a reputation for being “the tropical playground of the rich and famous”.
After these busy days we spent a more restful morning strolling through the beautiful Flecker Botanical Gardens where we saw many unusual and exotic flowering shrubs and trees imported from all over the world.
The family spent another great day at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. They explored the extensive park and had ample opportunity to interact with the wildlife.
“Enough sightseeing, who’s for a swim”?! There were certainly plenty of choices of swimming pools at the Lakes Resort. We very much enjoyed our trip to “the tropics” and look forward to further trips to this lovely area in the future.
Article and Pictures by Heather and Barry Minton
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Last Updated on May 25, 2010 by M. Maxine George editor.
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