7 Queensland Experiences I Can't Stop Talking About
You know what it’s like. You get back from an incredible holiday and you can’t shut up about it. Your friends are starting to roll their eyes having heard the story for the umpteenth time but you just don’t care because each time you drop your anecdote, you are recalling a travel experience that will stay with you for years to come. I’ve already bored my friends to tears, so without further ado, indulge me while, in no particular order, I recount some of the most unique experiences from my recent trip to Queensland, Australia:
Wallabies at the Kewarra Beach Resort
As a visitor to Australia, you tend to assume that seeing kangaroos and wallabies is a given. Having been to Oz three times now, I can confirm this is not the case. This is one of the reasons why my stay at Kewarra Beach Resort, just 20 minutes north of Cairns, was so awesome. The whole resort weaves through the rainforest and out onto a beautiful, quiet beach and I was staying in one of their Rainforest Bungalows, surrounded by tropical foliage. I’d been told that it was common to see wallabies hopping around the grounds but was still made up when I stepped out of my bungalow to see a mother wallaby with a joey in her pouch!
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Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef
Heart Pontoon is a multilevel floating reef facility operated by Cruise Whitsundays, permanently moored at Hardy Reef, and as it turns out, also an excellent place for spotting turtles. I’d been in the water for all of about five minutes, just a few metres from the pontoon and had barely finished adjusting my mask when I saw the first one. I had dived down to get a closer look at the brightly coloured surgeonfish that darted around the coral. As I started to descend, something large moved on the ocean floor. After a split-second spike of adrenaline I quickly realised I was watching a green sea turtle as it gracefully glided away. I followed for a minute or two before circling back to the coral where, as luck would have it, another turtle was now settled and tucking into some sea grass.
Helicopter Over Heart Reef
Let’s face it, taking a ride in a helicopter is a pretty incredible sensation, but throw an otherworldly landscape into the mix and you’re talking once-in-a-lifetime experience. Having avidly watched David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef series, I was well aware of how beautiful the reef looks from the sky and needed to see it for myself. So, despite light rain, my flight took off from Heart Pontoon and soared over the world’s most famous collection of coral - Heart Reef. The pilot circled back and banked to the side, giving us another fantastic photo opportunity. And as if it couldn’t get any better, he also pointed out dozens of sea turtles feeding on the surrounding reef. Bonus!
Spotting Crocs on Johnstone River
There is an abundance of wildlife to be found along the Johnstone River. Especially birdlife. In fact, if you’re very lucky, you might even spot an elusive cassowary strutting along its banks. But the real stars of the show are the saltwater crocodiles that laze on the river’s muddy shores. Our boat had barely cleared the dock before our eagle-eyed guide spotted a baby croc, no longer than a foot in length, from what seemed to be a good couple of hundred metres away. And that was just the first one! Thanks to the keen spotting skills of our Snapping Tours guide, we saw a total of three full-size salties in just under an hour on the river.
Swimming hole at Babinda Boulders
After a packed day-tour around Wooroonooran National Park, we had one more stop to make before we headed back to our hotel in Cairns. The air con in our bus was great but after a short hike around the leafy trails at Babinda Boulders, the chance to leap into the cooling waters of a nearby waterhole was too good to pass up. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was idyllic! The memory of our recent crocodile spotting tour was all too fresh for a few members of our group that opted not to take a dip. But this designated swimming area is croc-free so the rest of us took the opportunity for a refreshing plunge into the inviting waters.
Cocktails at Rocco Rooftop Bar, Cairns
Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Tropical North. So if you have either of these stunning destinations on your itinerary, you’ll most likely find yourself with a night or two here. If there’s one thing that Cairns excels at, it’s nightlife. But for the best experience in the city, you need to go up. Twelve storeys up, in fact, to the only rooftop bar in Cairns. Rocco is a sultry Moroccan-influenced hangout with a 270-degree view across the Cairns waterfront, complete with killer cocktail menu! I asked for a recommendation and got an ‘Old Spice’, a unique twist on an ‘Old Fashioned’.
Rocco Bar (Image: Rocco Rooftop Bar, Cairns)
Sailing to Whitehaven Beach
You might not know it by name, but images of its swirling white sands blending into a turquoise ocean have become world-renowned. Yep, Whitehaven Beach is quite the looker. In fact, you can expect to find it on any list of the world’s best beaches. There are a number of ways to get here but sailing has got to be the classic choice. I mean, it’s the Whitsundays! Sailing is essential!
I travelled on a purple catamaran called Camira, as part of a Cruise Whitsundays tour that also included snorkelling, a buffet lunch and a free bar. But before all of that, we had two blissful hours strolling, sunbathing and playing beach cricket on one of the world’s most famous stretches of sand.
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