IT'S LYNNY KANSAS
DON'T LET THE RUBY SLIPPERS,
OR THE DOROTHY INSPIRED NICKNAME
FOOL YOU., THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME,
BUT TRAVELING IS FUN.
We decided to take advantage of a four day weekend in Singapore due to the SG50 celebrations, so we tacked on some extra days, giving us a 10 day break. Of course, being such good planners, we left it all a bit late, so booking flights and accommodation proved a bit of a challenge as all our first choices were fully booked. So my advice would be, plan ahead and book early. August in this part of Australia is a little bit popular so it seems.
Our plan was to fly into Brisbane, spend a few days in that area and then fly from Brisbane to Cairns to explore Far North Queensland where the weather was slightly warmer. We chose to fly direct via Singapore Airlines into Brisbane, just under an 8 hour flight from Singapore, so not too painful. Upon landing in Brisbane, we picked up a rental car and drove 140km directly to Noosa Heads, a place highly recommended by a couple of Aussie mates. Our accommodation was The Hotel Laguna, on Hastings Street, the main street in town and just across the road from the most gorgeous little beach.
The main attraction for us in the Brisbane area was the proximity to Hervey Bay. Mid July to early November is prime humpback whale watching season in this area, and Hervey Bay in particular is renowned for fabulous sightings of whales. The warm waters of Hervey Bay, sheltered by Fraser Island, offer ideal conditions for the whales to rest and play on their long migration journey back to Antartica, having traveled to the warmer sub-tropical waters of the region to give birth.
Hervey Bay was a couple of hours driving from Noosa Heads, but it was worth it. Tasman Venture was our choice for the whale watch. We did a half day afternoon tour which was a fantastic experience, the staff on the boat were top notch, so knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Of course there is so much more to do in this area than just whale watching. There is the fabulous Fraser Island, which had we more time would have been fun to explore via 4WD. Rainbow Beach, and the Great Sandy National Park as well as Lake Weyba boat trips , Noosa National Park and the many beaches of the Sunshine Coast.
Staying right in the heart of Noosa Heads was great, both hubby and I like to be able to walk out at night to explore different eating options. Don't count on being out late here though, things typically shut down early, but that's OK, it was also nice to get up early for a walk and top it off with a hearty breakfast at a fabulous cafe, of which there were many.
Another highlight of our stay was getting to meet up with some friends who used to live in Singapore. We had a fabulous lunch atSails, one of the best restaurants in Noosa Heads. Overlooking the Noosa Heads Beach, this place was an A+ experience, a great spot with great food and fabulous service - oh and of course THE BEST company!! We were also introduced to Moreton Bay Bugs, also known as Bay Lobster. Good to know it wasn't a bug, because we were wondering.
NEXT STOP: PORT DOUGLAS (CAIRNS)
After a scant few days in Noosa, it was time to drive back to Brisbane Airport for our Jetstar flight to Cairns, just a short two hour flight.
We noticed a fair bit of difference in the temperature once we got to Port Douglas. In Noosa, it got to around 24ºC during the day but dropped down to around 13°C at night, so a light cardigan or jacket was needed. Port Douglas ranged at around 26°C during the day, dropping to around 18°C, so most evenings in Port Douglas we were in short sleeves. August is of course early Spring in this part of the World, so temps will rise further into August and September. I did come across a very succinct description of the seasons in The Port Douglas area, amongst the pages of our accommodation compendium.
Port Douglas is only about a 45 minute drive from Cairns airport, and an ideal spot from which to explore theGreat Barrier Reef. There are a lot of boat charters to choose from that will take you out to the reef. We elected to do a cruise/snorkel trip aboard The Quicksilver Wavedancer to the Low Isles. We had a lovely hour long trip out to the Low Isles and the reef where we could snorkel or laze on the beach.
More images of Port Douglas
There are lots of great restaurants in Port Douglas, amongst our favorites were Zinc, Salsa, Seabean, fabulous tapas here, Watergate and The Little Larder which did amazing breakfasts, the Onesie being a particular favorite although they also do lunch and dinner. Particularly loved the ambiance at Watergate along with the amazing Crispy Duck Pancakes. The Chicken Ballotine at Salsa was also an amazing dish. Being Brits, we tend to like to eat late, which was just as well as we were told the Town was pretty packed so booking a table would be hard. Eating at 8.30pm instead of 6pm proved to do the trick. Mind you by 10pm everything was closing up and starting to get pretty quiet.
Another tip we were given by a friend, was to head to The Tin Shed, near the Marina to watch the sunset. We were told to get there early to secure a seat on the balcony. This information proved to be correct as we arrived at 5.30pm to find the balcony packed. Oh well, maybe next time. We still managed a glimpse of the sunset.
You can take some great day or half day trips from Port Douglas, so much to see and do in the area both on land and sea. You can opt to do guided tours with groups, or just self drive which is what we preferred to do.
It was a lovely leisurely drive. We just took our time, stopping here and there. The ferry ride over the river was fun, $25 for a return trip.
Tiny Daintree Village with it's picturesque jetty and a few quaint little stores and cafe's. Crocodile River Cruises are available from here.
Some of the things we saw on our drive from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation.
KURANDA - SCENIC TRAIN RIDE, A VILLAGE AND A GONDOLA
We noticed theSkyrail as we drove out of Cairns Airport on our way to Port Douglas when we first arrived. Upon further investigation, we learned that it ended in Kuranda Village. We also learned that there was a scenic train ride to Kuranda, and it was possible to encompass all three. So we drove the 40 minutes or so back to the Skyrail where we parked our car. We were then shuttled by bus (about a 10 minute journey) to the Freshwater Station of The Kuranda Scenic Railway in order to catch the 9.10am train to Kuranda. This journey, approximately 90 minutes long, takes you through some tough terrain and skirts Barron Gorge, we learn how important this rail line was, and how difficult it was to build. Quite amazing.
Once in Kuranda Village, we strolled the shops and markets, lots of great souvenir shopping opportunities here, as well as some great local crafts. By now it was nearing lunch time, there is an abundance of restaurants, but we opted to sample the local pies!!
One of the highlights of Kuranda for me, was the opportunity to be able to cuddle a Koala. The Koala Gardens is one of three nature experiences in Kuranda, the others being Bird World and The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. The Koala was called Lannie, she was very cute and surprisingly heavy (5.5kg). The Singapore Zoo currently has four Koala's on loan for 6 months from Australia. (click here to learn more).
Once we had had our fill of shopping, eating and looking at cute animals, it was time to head back down to our car via The Skyrail. The gondolas give a great perspective of the rainforest below and also a great glimpse of Barron Gorge. The whole journey in the gondola takes 45 minutes, but there are 2 stops, Barron Falls and Red Peak if you want to get off and explore more before reaching the final destination which is The Smithfield Terminal. We also elected to upgrade to theDiamond View Gondola, which has a clear glass bottom, better for viewing the rainforest below.
There are many many activities and tours you can do in the Cairns/Port Douglas area. It is also nice to spend some time just relaxing by the pool or the beach which is what we also tried to do. I can't stress enough though, try and book flights and accommodation early to be able to get your first choices.
Because there were no direct flights from Cairns to Singapore available for the return journey, we flew back to Brisbane on an early Jetstar flight. This gave us a whole afternoon and evening in which to explore Brisbane a bit before heading back to Singapore the next day. I must say I liked Brisbane. We stayed right Downtown at the Marriott and there is a great pathway all along the river with restaurants and cafes (or water taxi's if you don't want to walk) via The Botanical Gardens and over to The South Bank. The Queen Street Mall is a great shopping area too.
Aussie humour abounds in some fabulous post cards I found.
So once again, big thanks to Charlene (Kylie) and Scott (Jason) for making me fall in love - because "that's when good neighbors, became good friends!!" *Sigh!*
Until next time Australia!!
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