After grappling over where we would go for Australia’s version of spring break, we finally decided that we needed to go ahead and see the Great Barrier Reef. We’re not sure how much longer we will be staying in Australia, so it seemed like the right time to go and check one of the big items off of our bucket list. I’m so glad we decided on Cairns – it was the perfect place to relax, have a chat at a nice Irish pub, eat some waffles, and swim with TURTLES! Here’s a little recap of our 3 day trip.
We didn’t end up leaving until Monday, because I had to teach a holiday revision class for my Year 12s’ exam coming up soon. So after the class, we packed up all our beachy wear, printed all our tickets, and headed over to Southern Cross station. From Southern Cross, we were able to get cheap tickets for the Skybus, which is a double decker that goes to and from the airport and the city. We couldn’t believe how easy it was to get to the airport – everyone is always complaining that there are no trams there, but this was much nicer!
We booked roundtrip tickets through Kayak, which gave us one ticket from Jetstar airlines and another from Tigerair (These are Australia’s versions of Easyjet and Ryanair). It was about $400 for each person, which was a total steal! We only brought carry ons, so we were able to head straight to security and enjoy a nice coffee in Melbourne’s fancy airport before our flight. It felt surreal to be flying out of Melbourne – it was our first time at the airport since we had come over from the US, so we were feeling very thankful and reminiscing on all the opportunities that have come our way since that day.
The flight was about 3 hours long – which I totally didn’t realize! I always forget that we are the city at the bottom of Australia. After getting off the plane, we called an Uber and headed towards our hotel. I chose Hides Hotel, which is one of the original hotels in Cairns City Centre. It was a little old and had shared bathrooms (Didn’t know about until we got there..), but it was right next to all the shops, restaurants, and nightlife. It felt like the perfect location! We got in pretty late, so we settled in and went straight to sleep.
The next day, we slowly woke up, slapped on some sunscreens and swimsuits, and headed out for brunch. We ended up finding Waffle On, which is a magical place that serves extravagant waffles of every shape and size. I got a Smores waffle and Rory got some kind of Nutella one – it’s safe to say we were in love.
After chowing down on the best waffles of our entire lives, we headed to the Cairns Lagoon. We were not told that there are virtually no beaches in Cairns, so we were a bit confused when we found a man made pool with fake sand next to a swamp type thing that eventually led to the ocean. That was a bit of a let down, along with the fact that the wind sucked my new woven hat into the swamp as well. RIP my hat.
We spent the day by the lagoon, lounging, sleeping, and reading. It was extremely nice to just sit and chat for once! After about 5 hours in the sun and some ripe sunburns, we walked around the shops, looked through an art gallery, and successfully found the library. Then we showered and went to PJ O’Brien’s, our hotel’s Irish pub, where we had amazing fish and chips and apple ciders. It was a nice end to the day in our favorite kind of place.
The next day was our Great Barrier Reef tour. After researching good snorkeling tours online, I booked through Raging Thunder, which took us on a ferry to Fitzroy Island. After getting rained on half of the way, we landed on Fitzroy – which was one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen! The water was a clear crystal blue, there were palm trees lining every path, and there were at least 3 private beaches. We had the option of snorkeling or going on a glass bottom boat with lunch provided. Rory was very skeptical of snorkeling, as he is very afraid of the deep sea and all its creatures, but I eventually convinced him that we would be right next to the shore and HAD to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef to say we’d done Australia right. He was nice enough to say yes, so we ditched the glass bottom boat and grabbed some goggles. We started out on the left beach, but couldn’t seem to find anything but dead coral under the water. I got a little tiffed because I thought we had been jipped, but Rory suggested we head over to the right beach to see if we could find any living parts of the reef. Thank goodness he persevered, because the right side of the beach was AMAZING!! As soon as we got farther into the water, there were billions of colors, shapes, and sizes of coral. The fish were straight out of Finding Nemo and I couldn’t believe I was SWIMMING with them instead of watching them through the glass of an aquarium. Our goggles fogged up quite quickly, so we stumbled upon a larger than life sea turtle without even noticing. But once we finally figured out what it was through the fog, we were IN AWE. It was unreal!! We ended up seeing two turtles and almost cried tears of joy over the sight of them. We spent about 2 hours just going up and down the reef, looking around in wonder. After that, we took naps on the beach, burnt ourselves a bit more, and ate our nice ham sandwiches. Then we hopped back on the ferry, took showers, and ate some fish and chips at the pub. All in all, it was the perfect day and the best way to see the reef on our own terms. I loved that we had the freedom to explore it at our leisure and take our time looking at all this natural wonder had to offer.
We woke up the next morning and had breakfast at this amazing Swedish Fika cafe. The servers were actually Swedish and explained a bunch of Swedish traditions to us while feeding us BEAUTIFUL heart shaped waffles. We are now very interested in moving to Sweden….
After breakfast, I tried to check into our flight the next day. My reference code wasn’t working, so I called Tiger Airlines to see what was wrong. They ‘regretted to inform me’ that I had booked our return flight for OCTOBER 28thinstead of September 28th. This was one of those ‘I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO ADULT’ moments and I had a slight panic attack at the fact that we would have to fork out good money to get another flight. So we looked at the options for flying out the next day and couldn’t find any tickets for under $400. Then we looked at flying out that night, which would only cost us $100. Seeing as we had pretty much done what we wanted to do, and could still have the day to hang around, we booked the flights for that night and thanked our lucky stars that we had found a viable option.
So we packed up our stuff, went to Nando’s for lunch, walked around, and found some magnets for our tiny UniLodge fridge. After that, we called another Uber and headed back to the airport.
So yes, it was a short trip, but it was all that we needed to relax and have some time together. We got to tick another item off our bucket list, spend time in a nice pub, chill on the beach, and enjoy each other’s company. All in all, I would say it was a great trip! But it was even greater to get back to our apartment with our own bathroom and our own bed. You never realize how good you’ve got it until you leave!
Thanks for reading,