Arriving in Cairns last September, our family was expecting the cool spring season. So what’s with this warm weather greeting us?
Located in the state of Queensland, Cairns is a sunshine city all year round. Temperatures were around 25 degrees Celsius – with gentle breeze and low humidity – when we visited. The weather was certainly more comfortable than Singapore’s! While Cairns is known for its World Heritage-listed sites, there’s also plenty of child-centric activities to make it an unforgettable vacay for the little ones.
As with our previous trip to Gold Coast (read our blog here), we chose to have a self-drive holiday. This allowed us greater flexibility in arranging our itinerary and exploring attractions at our own pace.
Here are some highlights from our five-day road trip.
Upon touching down in Cairns City, we immediately set off for Port Douglas that’s about an hour’s drive away. This quaint town is also the gateway to the famous Great Barrier Reef.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing at Freestyle Resort, a boutique property that is a 10-minute walk to the picturesque Four Mile Beach.
We had a spacious dual-level two-bedroom apartment with balcony and a fully equipped kitchen. This would be our accommodation for the next two nights.
Throughout our stay,Leia and Lauren also had fun playing in the resort’s pool and jacuzzi.
Food note:Today’s lunch was at the beachfront Nu Nu Restaurant which serves modern Aussie cuisines. For dinner, we went to My Italian Baby where our little foodie Lauren gorged herself on pasta and pizza like we had starved her for days, haha!
Hello, Great Barrier Reef! We couldn’t wait to visit the world’s largest coral reef system, which was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1981.
We signed up for an Outer Reef day tour with Quicksilver Cruises. It was a 1½-hour ride on a catamaran before we reached a spacious two-level reef activity platform.
At the Great Barrier Reef, there’s said to be 15,000 species of tropical fish and over 400 varieties of corals. We couldn’t miss the chance to go scuba diving!
We got Leia and Lauren to snorkel too. Yes, kids could definitely join in the fun as long as they’re confident in the water. But we must say it was no easy feat fitting our chubby troopers in skin-tight lycra suits, haha!
Here, they also took their first-ever helicopter ride. It’s an indescribable feeling experiencing the magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef – all 2,300km long of it from up above. The helicopter swooped low enough for us to see the coral clusters and schools of fish.
To be honest, we were hesitant at first about the cruise as it seemed too “commerical” when we were researching for this holiday. But it turned out that we had an awesome experience. It’s great for families with young kids, as well.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave the activity platform and the catamaran brought us back to Port Douglas. What a day it had been!
Food note:Adelicious hot and cold seafood buffet lunch was included in the cruise package. Dinner was at On the Inlet Restaurant where we tucked into even more seafood.
Today we have a long drive (164km) down to the Atherton Tablelands region, and our first stopover is at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. This wildlife park is created on a 10 hectare World Heritage site and has been operating since the 1930s.
It’s a great place to get up-close withsaltwater crocodiles,widely regarded as the world’s most powerful biters. We took a boat cruise andspotted them lurking in the murky waters below.It was a heart-stopping moment to see them leap out of the lagoon to chomp onbaits.
We also booked a private tour to feed turtles, stroke a parakeet and witness snake-feeding. It had been an educational session for the whole family!
Next stop: Crystal Cascades, a secluded freshwater swimming hole that’s hidden in a rainforest – and very popular with the Cairns locals.
It took us about 30 minutes to walk to the waterhole from the car park. The pathway is well-maintained but the slopes can besteep at some parts, so bring the strollers if you have young kids.
Here, the fall cascades into several small pools, whereLeia and Lauren took a refreshing dip.
After a long day, we’re more than ready to rest for the night at Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat. It’s made up of cottages/treehouse peppered around rainforest surroundings.
Our Treehouse had a homely rustic feel with a fireplace tucked in the corner. Dinner was also provided for us upon checking in.
Located within the heart of the forest,the air was extraordinarily crisp and fresh.
Take note though thatthere’s no phone or Internet connection here. For city dwellers like us, this gave us the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and to fully engage with nature – and of course, our kids.
There’s an abundance of brush turkeys and rosella birds which roam freely around the premises. If you’re up for it, there’s also 9km of bush walking tracks.
Rise and shine! We head back to Cairns City to explore the Kuranda mountain village and Rainforestation Nature Park. Enroute to Kuranda, we dropped by Shaylee Strawberries farm for freshly-made gelato. You only have to look at our girls’ satisfied faces to know how heavenly these tasted!
We took the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which took us above the rainforest canopy. During the hour-long ride, we soaked in the magnificent landscape with its lush greenery, highlands and sea.
Among the village’s attractions is the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, touted as the largest aviary and exhibit in Australia with over 1,500 butterflies. We went on a guided tour to learn about these beautiful insects’ life cycle and behaviour.
Next, we visited the Rainforestation Nature Park to feed the kangaroos and take photos with the koalas.
We also went aboard a World War II Army Duck boat for a unique rainforest tour on both land and water.Our knowledgeable guideintroduced to us Cairn’s fascinating plants and wildlifebefore the amphibious vehicle splashed into the lake for a cruise.
Next up, a train ride along the Kuranda Scenic Railway line is also a must do. We took this route when we were leaving the village.
Over 1 hour 45 minutes, we passed through World Heritage protected rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and into the awesome Barron Gorge. Our girls loved the ride!
After a long day of adventures, we retreat back to town and stayed over at Mantra Trilogy, a modern apartment with panoramic ocean view right in the heart of Cairns City.
Food note: Dinner was at Dundees on the Waterfront, a nice steakhouse right by the water.
Sleeping in 😴 and enjoying the views from our balcony. Taking it slow for our last day in Cairns.
After a hearty breakfast at a nearby cafe, which chose to chill and swim at Cairns Esplanade Lagoon at the city’s heart. This is a free public saltwater pool and we loved that it’s clean and safe for the kids.
In the afternoon, we made our way to Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome, which is said to be the world’s first challenge ropes course in a wildlife park. Imagine ziplining across a ferocious crocodile!
Besides giving an adrenaline rush, the park offered us yet another precious chance to get up-close with native Australian wildlife.
Food note: On our last night in Cairns, dinner was at Prawn Star, a trawler restaurant off Marlin Marina harbour. It’s famous for the great atmosphere and freshly caught seafood – think prawns, mud crabs, lobsters and oysters.
We flew on SilkAir, which will have daily flights to Cairns from 2 June 2019.