Travel to the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns

Posted by Howard on January 10, 2018

In the middle of last year, I heard there was a discount airline ticket in Jetstart that the return was free. After booking the tickets to Cairns, I forgot it until one day I went to ski with another family, they mentioned they also booked tickets to Cairns, which reminded me. Since I wanted self driving, I booked the accommodation in a holiday park, a bit far from the Cairns CBD and still 10 minutes’ driving distance to Cairns city. In the January of this year, just one week before we set off, I ordered car rentals, three days’ cruise and one day river tubing.

On arriving Cairns, it began to rain and it continued to rain in the subsequent one week. I got to know afterwards that it was rainy days from Jan to Mar in Cairns. I suddenly recalled what a Chinese fortuneteller in Melbourne told us that we should not go traveling in Year 2017, but it was year 2018! Then my wife reminded me that actually Chinese lunar year 2017 had not yet passed.

From the map below, we can see Cairns located in the Northeast of Australia and belongs to Queensland state. It has a clear tropical rain forest climate, not as dry as Melbourne. Aboriginal people here are very common and have integrated into the Australian community’s life and work. They treat foreign tourists very friendly. There are many Japanese here, especially in attractions, so Japanese tourists have a certain linguistic advantage. There are also many Taiwanese fellow citizens here, so people speaking mandarin can get interpreters as well.

It took 3 hours flying from Melbourne to Cairns, however, it didn’t necessary need 3 hours because there was one hour time zone difference between them, which was due to different policies about daylight saving. Queensland has abandoned this policy for many years however, Victoria which Melbourne belongs to is still sticking to that daylight saving policy.

After getting off the airplane and collecting our baggages, we wen over to the rentals to pick up our car. Cairns airport is quite close to CBD which only takes 10 minutes driving. We spent our first day in Cairns CBD since it was 2 pm in the afternoon. I got a feeling that there are more Asian cultures in Cairns than in Melbourne. This might be due to the prosperity of the Japanese economics in 90s, so that Japanese culture spread out in this city.



This is a city beach in Cairns CBD, it was such as peaceful place to take a rest that fit people like us who had been very tired after a long time traveling by aircraft.






The first day spent so quietly, followed by a very memorable second day.

I had booked the “Great Adventure” which included morning tea, lunch buffet, snorkeling equipment and submarine watching sea fish. I suggest you to take some breakfast at home because the morning tea was just some tea, coffee and biscuits, but don’t take too much since you would probably vomit them off in the cruise. It was quite calm before we arrived the Green island, however, we encountered surged sea on the way to the Great Barrier Reef. Many people suffered sea sick. My wife and child got off the boat almost in unconsciousness. The first program we took was to take the submarine to watch the underwater world, there were intervals and time restriction so we took this in the first place.

After lunch, we got restored and began the next program—-snorkeling. Put on diving suits, life jackets, snorkeling special glasses and breathing tube before went into the water, only after you are in the water can you take on flippers . Snorkeling is a such an interesting activity that you can see the coral reefs in the sea, and fish passing by.



We went to the Green Island on the third day, which is a beautiful white sand surrounded by coral islands and is located in the seven wonders of the world’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It has a history of six thousand years and is a precious heritage by the nature. The Green island is Only 27 km from Keynes, the hub of tropical Queensland. It is the only coral island with coral reefs and rainforest coexistence. The island boasts 126 tropical vegetation, colorful birds and a 15-hectare Great Barrier Reef that surrounds. Because of its fame, many tourists like to visit here.



This was the most unpleasant day in Cairns, it kept on raining throughout the day, we were snorkeling in the rain, however, we were so close to the coast, there were no good scenery such as reef. Before we boarded, our money and bank cards were blown into the sea by a gust of wind. The tour guide next to a tour group was very professional and immediately alert her group not to take the ticket any more. There are other people shouted, “Oh, it is real that people may find money in the sea.” The tour guider also said playfully that she will go swimming tomorrow and see if she can pick up my bank card.

The wonderful thing on that day was we returned to Cairns Marina and ate a luxury seafood dinner:


People who have experienced domestic water drifting, would think it is not that this is a quite simple and effortless. We cannot agree after this adventure. The river tubing we experienced on that day was the pure natural drift we had never experienced before. We set the fourth day of the River Tubing. The tour guider was worried about the rain causing the elevation of the water to rise, which would be unsafe. he was about to cancel the activities. However, it was almost the most nice day we spent in Cairns. The trip group included two families, a total of six people. Another family was a Western Family and they were not native to Cairns. This tour guider must be a local, as he alone guided us, driving 45 minutes to reach the Mulgrave River. There was no artificial pavement for you to walk, no pier. It was purely wild and raw. He gave each of us a tire tube and asked us to put it on top of the head. We then walked about half an hour in the wilderness, finally came to a place where he thought the water flow was not fierce. We also took a lot of effort to get on the tire. After drifting all the way to a stone bridge, we walked to a pond. The scenery here was really beautiful and it was like a magic world in the fairy tale! What a pity, I did not take camera with me on that day. This river drifting activity was completely original, wild, and this kind of scenery was never viewed by ordinary people! You have to go through the wilderness to have a chance to take a glance of this wonderful world!

On the fifth day we set out to Agincourt . It took us more than 1 hour to drive the the Port Douglas and it was very convenient for free parking, not like when we drove to the marina to the Great Barrier Reef, it was about 10 AUD to park one day.

It was still raining heavily in that morning. I was depressed and began to wonder were we the God in charge of rain? So I asked a little girl from Taiwan while checking in, she said that from January to March is the rainy season here. That made sense why we were so unlucky. Although it was raining, nothing can stop our passion to travel. Look, there were so many people waiting anxiously on board.



It went on very smoothly that day. We took a semi-submarine to view the Underwater World, then went to snorkel. While we were watching the underwater world, there was a Chinese senior lady, she had been suffering from sea sick for a while but she was very strong in mind. After looking into the underwater world, she felt upset, so she picked up the paper bag to vomit. She immediately got restored and continued to enjoy the beautiful view out side of the window and took photos while admiring the wonderful scenes. Then she got sick again and brought another bag to vomit. I looked at her in astonishment since she got restored again and continued to take pictures. I appreciated this lady so much that I began to remember a word which was often mentioned in western school “resilience”! If translated into Chinese, it should mean “toughness” or “perseverance”.




While leaving the outer Great Barrier Reef, I photographed the sea platform, this was our playground for that day. There were still a few staff to stay there to do clean job, let me solute to them!



There were stormy waves on our way back. I was half lying down on the chair to enjoy this scene.


On the last day of our journey, we drove straight to Dain tree rain forest. Daintree Rainforest is known as the oldest forest in the world and adjacent to another miracle, the Great Barrier Reef. It encompasses mountains, waterfalls, streams and lots of pastures. It is so rich in terms of landscape, which is incomparable of other rainforests. In perspective of biological abundance, Daintree rainforest preserves a more complete biodiversity due to its greater scope and distance from human activities. It is worth a visit. However when we were driving, we came across pouring rain. We took a ferry return from the Dain tree rainforest, which cost me 27 AUD. Originally I planned to visit three places today, Cape Tribulation inside the forest, Mossman Gorge, Daintree River cruise. However the rain was so heavy that we worried the road may be flooded. Eventually we came to Cape Tribulation, which is a bay between the two mountains. It was extremely easy for the ships to hit the reefs hidden and there were countless ship wrecks, thus obtained the name “angle of misery.”




In case of good weather, it will a good idea to take a boat trip along the Daintree River. There were many businesses along Daintree river to provide cruise service, which was basically a 30 bucks for 1 hour ferry tour.

Actually it is about 1 hour’s driving from Mossman Gorge to Dain Tree National Park. If you go from Port Douglas, you will pass the Mosman Gorge, and then to Dain Tree National Park . This canyon is actually part of the Daintree National Park which is listed in the World Heritage. Mossman gorge is easily accessible and picturesque. Here the Mossman River tumbles waves, flapping giant granite lined canyons, forming countless cool, clean freshwater swimming pools. Numerous towering green trees stand into the sky. You can walk all the way to the bridge across the river, you can also explore the 2.7 km rainforest ring path. Here is also where the movie “Avatar” shoot. There are two options to enjoy the gorge, walking about 4 km return, or taking the shuttle bus provided by the local people, adult 9.5 bucks and children 4.5 bucks. Since it was always raining, we decided to take the shuttle bus.



In summary, I found the agenda is not reasonable. Actually, I should ignore the Great Barrier Reef and the Green island. I should accommodate in Port Douglas and order cruise to outer Great Barrier Reef, then drive to Dain Tree National Park and Mossman Gorege. It is better to spend the last day near Cairns city so that we can enjoy the river drifting. That would be the most efficient way to travel around Cairns. I hope this could be helpful for you if you want to travel to Cairns. The last suggestion: try to avoid January to March.

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