Introducing our newest contributor, Lauren, whose love for travel began in high school. Learn more about Lauren here.
Australia and New Zealand have been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had it planned in my mind and had been throwing extra money into my secret “Australia” account for years. However, actually going turned out to be more of a spur of the moment decision. My best friend, who also loves to travel, and I went on a whim to the AAA travel show in my home state of Rhode Island and well, it didn’t take us long to get dragged into a booth that offered tours to Australia & New Zealand. There was a deal that was being offered that was truly unbelievable. The catch? We had four days to decide or it was gone. Not surprisingly it took us only two before we were walking into our local AAA branch and booking it. We had zero idea how we were going to get three weeks off work, but we figured hey we are young and we have always wanted to do this. Fast forward a few months, two very understanding jobs, four flights, over 28 hours of flying time, and we were there. This trip offered so many amazing once in a lifetime experiences. So, for anyone looking to make some incredible memories in Aussie land, here are some things I think should definitely make your list, and also a few that could be crossed off. Let’s start up north in Cairns.
The first stop on our trip was to the Daintree Rainforest which is an absolute must do! The Daintree Rainforest is located on the north-east coast of Queensland, an easy day trip from Cairns. Every part of this was incredible, surprisingly even the bus trip to get there. Once you’re in the Cape Tribulation area, take a hike…literally. There are wooded paths that will take you pretty deep into the rainforest, while still being able to find your way back easily. The photo ops are incredible and you get up close to so many different plants and wildlife. Also, when you get off the trail, head up the road about five minutes, you’ll find a fun little creek that you’ll catch the locals in. It offers a chance to cool off in the summer heat. Lastly, on your way back to Cairns, stop at Cape Tribulation beach, the coastline is absolutely gorgeous. While there is no swimming there due to a lot of ‘creatures with stingers’, it is still a nice place to explore. Get your photo and head out back to Cairns.
Don’t miss this opportunity. From two animal lovers’ perspectives, it was an absolute must do. We took advantage of this on our trip back from Cape Tribulation towards Cairns, however there are multiple locations for this throughout Australia. Little roadside stops, usually attached oddly enough to a café or roadside store of sorts, is where you’ll get to enjoy this experience. We were offered some treats and about a half hour to get to feed and pet the animals. While the Kangaroos tend to just lay there or eat out of your hand, the wallabies are a bit more skittish, so my suggestion is move quick if you want a photo.
The Great Barrier Reef
My number one travel bucket list item was completed in Cairns – the Great Barrier Reef, which Cairns provides the gateway to. My advice is to do a full day sail, not just a half day. This way you’ll get to visit multiple dive sites. The local company we found, Reef Experience, was amazing and was run by a bunch of young adults around our age. They fit you with wet suits, fins, and goggles/snorkels when getting on the boat. There are two dive sites and you can either dive or snorkel at either, whatever you’re more comfortable with. Personally, I did one dive and snorkeled at the other site to get to experience both. The instructors were all very patient and helpful so I advise doing a dive at least once, it’s an incredible experience. As a matter of fact, we loved the Great Barrier Reef so much, we ended up going twice!
Want to swim with sea turtles? Don’t spend insane amounts of money to do it. Businesses in Australia will make it seem like this is the only option. It isn’t. If you’re in Cairns, take the ferry over to Green Island, a 6000-year-old coral cay located within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It’s only about a 45-minute ride and the ferry ticket is cheap. Head to any beach on this small island and you’re bound to meet at least one sea turtle. For a couple of bucks, you can rent a sting proof suit and some fins and get to swimming. And make sure you get those underwater cameras ready!
Australia has put an end to being able to hold koala’s, but if you still really want to then there is a way. Head to the Cairns Casino…yes, casino. On the top floor of this multi-story casino is a zoo. Although it was a bit on the pricey side, they will let you hold and get a photo with a koala. It was just as adorable as you would think it would be. For me it was worth it, an experience checked off my list but for others it might be something to pass on.
There’s a lot of these in Australia. A crocodile farm, it’s part of the Australia experience I suppose. Our ticket was included in my tour so that’s what drew us there, and a certain level of curiosity. However, if you don’t like the creatures, or don’t have an interest in almost having an anxiety induced heart attack thinking the trainers are going to get eaten then I’d say skip it, you’re not missing anything here.
Much like the croc farm, this was included in our tour. If you’re looking to fill an afternoon I would suggest checking this place out. It was located in downtown Cairns. Not only do you get to experience aboriginal life, but they let you test your boomerang and spear throwing skills. I for one was terrible at both but it was quite the laugh. They sell beautiful art and ceramics as well, and will ship it back home for a reasonable price so you don’t have to stress about breaking it during the rest of your trip.
There is a great area in downtown Cairns called the Esplanade. Head there at night for some great eats and lovely scenery. My personal recommendation, grab some gelato and head down to the beach for some perfect sunset views. It was the perfect way to end our last night in Cairns.