Australia – Brisbane, Gold Coast, Cairns, Port Douglas

Ten days in the northern/eastern Australia sun! The thought alone will relax you. I was privileged to live it with three friends. Started out the journey in Tokyo. Our chariot was JetStar (think RyanAir or Southwest) direct Tokyo (NRT) to Cairns (CNS). The red-eye was comfortable and I got enough sleep – nothing fancy. We had a few hours in CNS before departing domestically for Brisbane (BNE). Caught up on sleep and was woken by some friendly police. (Somebody reported people sleeping outside the airport. Go figure…)

AUS Favorite Images in Brisbane and Gold Coast and Cairns:

AUS Favorite Images in Cairns and Port Douglas:

Gold Coast:
Stayed at the Sheraton Mirage, Gold Coast. Starwood has a great property here! The room was meters from the ocean, literally, 30m to the sand, surf, beach and cool, clear water. We explored the GC downtown – having dinner, shopping, and normal touristy things. The real fun came when we biked from north of surfer’s paradise all the way down to Pt. Danger. Each way is about 30km. We did it in a day with plenty of stops and sight-seeing. Got to see cities like Palm Beach, Tugan, Currumbin, Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads, Broadbeach, etc. Also had a great trip inland. Spent a day visiting the rainforests and treking in/around Springbrook. Lunch was in the valley at Ninmimbah. Then we drove down to Byron Bay. Famous for its lighthouse, this hippie town is a great place to explore. Australia’s most easterly mainland point is here. (Of course, we stood on the most easterly point.)
Brisbane:
Had two evenings in Brisbane. Spent one night hanging out with a colleague – and having dinner (JoJo) on Queen St. The other evening was with the Bea’s family. They were super gracious hosts! Dinner and desert and even coffee were all specially prepared. The desert was a homemade Kiwi/Aussie favorite — pavlova — and we are still debating who created the desert first. After dinner we went to Mt. Cootah and then South Bank / Streets Beach in Brisbane. Streets Beach is a man-made beach smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Thanks to the whole family for making the evening special!
Port Douglas:
Flight from BNE to CNS was short and easy, even though it was super early AM. Another friend from Tokyo — Ningning, who had been vacationing in Sydney — met us at the airport. The three of us drove to Port Douglas approximately 70 km (40 mi) north of Cairns. (“Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin died at Batt Reef, off Port Douglas.) The drive is breathtaking. It reminded me of the coastline in Ayr, Scottland and coastal Route 1 in California. We stopped at Rex Overlook. Seems Rex Lookout is a favorite spot for “hangies” and “gliders”. We got to witness several hang-gliders and one parasailer take off and fly up/down the beach. Quite a sight; quite a site.
We proceeded north to the Sheraton Mirage, Port Douglas. On the first day, we watched Hikaru fall in love with “high tea”. Spent the afternoon exploring the beach and pools and then dinner in downtown. A highlight: playing cricket on the beach. We three were walking along and came across 4 Indian’s playing cricket. They invited us to play. Hikaru, Ningning and I took turns being the batter, bowler, and fielder. Pretty cool experience. Next morning, the pool and beach were home. Daintree Forest and Mossman Gorge were visited in the afternoon. Site seeing over, we drove back to Cairns and met-up with Sherley.
A few days later we were back in Port Douglas to go diving the Great Barrier Reef – the largest coral reef system in the world! All four of us went out on Poseidon – a catamaran based in Port Douglas. Ningning and Sherley snorkeled while Hikaru and I dove. The diving was done on Agincourt Reef about 39 nautical miles [72 kilometres] from port. Cruising to the reef took about 1.5 hours in rough seas. Some of us will remember that cruise more favorably than others. 🙂 Diving was pretty spectacular; each dive was at depths around 16m @ ~40min dive time. Got to see coral, large fish – and one noteworthy shark! The girls had a great time snorkeling, too. Even Ningning — who wasn’t real sure of the snorkeling idea – did great. The cruise back to port was uneventful, well, for three of us. 🙂 Please see the pictures! There are also 2 videos available in the extended entry.

Diving Agincourt Reef at the Great Barrier Reef:

Cairns:
Tourism is Cairns’ primary income source followed by sugar production. There wasn’t much to do in Cairns – we did some shopping, cooked an Aussie barbie at the flat, and toured the local downtown and port. But otherwise we took day trips… to Kuranda, north to visit Palm Cove, relaxed on the beach near Palm Cove, and took in the Cairns Tropical Zoo. My birthday fell on a day while we were in Cairns. We celebrated with a barbie and then the 3 others surprised me with a Tiramisù cake – really appreciated!
Kuranda:
Village in the Rainforest is Kuranda’s motto. We took the scenic railway to/from Kuranda. The rail-line passes through the Cairns’ valley, up past waterfalls, and around the Barron Gorge. In Kuranda, a small tourist town, you can visit several small zoo/nature preserves and the Kuranda Heritage Markets.


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Diving videos: