Australia (Part 1) – From Cairns to Townsville

After our (too short for us) 10 days stay in Bali, we flew out to Australia to start off our 20 days road trip along the Queensland coast from Cairns to Brisbane.

Surprisingly, because rarer than one would think, we’ve been instantly immersed in the Australian culture as we have had the luck of being placed in the middle of a dozen of Australian aborigines in the plane.


CAIRNS (3 days)

Cairns is a very popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and to the Daintree Rainforest, Queensland most famoust rainforest.
The city is approximately 52 km (32 mi) long but the CBD is relatively small.
Because the city’s centre foreshore is located on a mud flat, there is no « real beach ».
There is, nevertheless, a wide lagoon surrounded by a small park with barbecues, playgrounds, picnic tables, … that allow locals and tourists to relax. The city has a friendly and warm atmosphere and it’s always pleasant to wander around in its streets.

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In the evening, the city is very lively with its many bars, restaurants and its night market.
The night market opens every night, has a large food-court and is full of small souvenir shops and stalls. You can also get ‘cheap and fast’ chinese massages. We tried them out and immediately regretted it! After 15 minutes of pure torture, we were relieved to come out of it.

We stayed at Dreamtime Travellers Rest. A hostel slightly off-center (just enough for it to be quite but still close to everything) with a hippie vibe. Their mascot is an old Volswagen van restored and furnished by the hostel’s owner.
The night of our arrival, the hostel organised a barbecue with on the menu: Kangaroo ! We obviously joined in, it allowed us to taste typically australian food and to meet new people.

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During our stay in Cairns, we went on a one-day cruise to the Great Barrier Reef. The adventure was unbelievable !! We had the opportunity to swim next to a barracuda, to observe a sea turtle and a small shark (still a meter long though), to see some Nemos and some Doris and all of it in the middle of the corals !!

Our favorite : The Great Barrier Reef !

We had amazing weather conditions which allowed us to see clearly the vast expanse of corals all more colorful than the last. The marine diversity of this region is impressive and we were able to swim with fish that we would have never imagined to see one day.

Funny anecdote : At sunset, some of the trees in the city are filled with thousands of small parrots. Because of the loud cacophony of sound they make, it’s almost impossible to hear each other talking when next to those trees.

For the thrill seekers : You’ll enjoy watching a barracuda right in the eyes. His Colgate smile will dazzle you. 🙂

After 3 days in Cairns, we rented a van and started our road trip !!
We had a final destination (Brisbane) and a number of days (15).
Our plan? We didn’t have any!
We just took the road and decided to stop whenever our hearts would tell us to stop.
Doing so, our first stop was in the Wooroonooran NP, 1 hour South of Cairns. After a short 10 minutes bush walk, we got to see our first falls !

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It’s not that easy to drive in Australia once night has fallen. Most of the roads being unlit and the country being home to such a large variety of wildlife, it’s sadly not that uncommon to see injured animals or even roadkill along the roads.
Days being shorter due to the season, we soon stopped in a motorway rest area to spend the night.


TOWNSVILLE (1,5 days)

The next day we took the road to Townsville.
Townsville is the second largest city in Queensland after Brisbane.
The city is well known for its extreme sports activities such as skydiving and because it’s the main gateway to Magnetic Island. It’s also famous for its ‘Reef HQ’ which is the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium.

In a Los Angeles kind of way, Townsville has a beautiful energy. Castle Hill in the middle of the city offers a breathtaking 360° point of view of the city, the coast and the ocean. We would highly recommend to go there at sunset.

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The « Reef HQ » offers a fun, educative and relaxing experience.
In addition to the simple visit, tours are organized daily such as the « Predator Dive Show » or the visit of Australia’s only Turtle Hospital. These tours allow visitors to see, live and learn more about the secrets of the underwater world.
Our advice: Prepare your visit according to the tours, they are worth it !

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Our favorite : The 360° panoramic view from Castle Hill at sunset.

Funny anecdote : We parked in a free camping just outside the city to spend the night. At around 1:30 in the morning, two security guys knocked on our door and woke us up informing us that overnight stay was not allowed.
To avoid the fine, we immediatly got back on the road. It’s by getting lost that we found ourselves in what I believe looked like the house of a psychopath: a remote camping, murky and unlit.
There, we witnessed something that we had never seen before: a hundreds of wild wallabies who, scared of the lights of our car started jumping around everywhere.
Still too scared of the place, we left very quickly.