The ground is blanketed in white. The temperature is flirting with subzero numbers. I spend almost 2 hours per day staring at cars’ rears and 8 hours looking out at a parking lot (actually, there’s so much snow outside my cubicle window, I can barely see over the berm). While this is my current realty, there’s another reality that is unfolding – the realty that soon I will embark on a journey to Australia.
The dream in my head of palm trees and blue oceans and tropical fish feels out of reach. It’s crazy that it’s been months since I won a trip to Queensland from this entry and now it’s less than 3 months until I’m going on the vacation of my life.
The best part about this trip is that I will not be going alone. My mysterious significant other whose identity shall not be revealed on this blog will be joining the adventure. And per his suggestion (and my eager agreement) we aren’t spending five days in Queensland (per the trip winnings), but 14 days in Australia. Mr. Mysterious & I will be splitting our time between Sydney in New South Wales and Cairns & Hamilton Island in Queensland.
Sydney is still up in the air – since this is a trip extension that we are taking on our own & not a part of prize (it isn’t in Queensland, after all), we need to plan, schedule and accommodate ourselves. Perhaps we stay at a boutique hotel, or find a worldwide hotel to start a loyalty program, or maybe try AirBNB? Maybe we’ll climb that iconic bridge or tour the Opera House, have a surfing lesson on Bondi Beach or venture to the Blue Mountains. Either way, we’re looking for some affordable “can’t-miss” experiences. Any suggestions?
I will disclose that some pieces of this trip are covered through the blogger contest, but a significant portion of “extras” are funded by our own hard-earned pennies. Oh, and none of these excursions are booked yet (YIKES) so I supposed they are subject to change. So here it is, folks!
The Queensland Itinerary Fit for a Queen:
CAIRNS – 5 Days
Accommodation – Kewarra Beach Resort
We’re staying in a little private bungalow nestled in the rainforest just off the ocean. There’s a botanical garden that attracts butterflies. The resort terrain is a natural habitat to wallaby, wombats, native birds, and reptiles. It’s a nature lover’s delight. The only thing that would make this stay best is if I had a personal kookaburra sitting outside my window to wake my mornings with laughter. Kewarra seems more rustic than resort, but I’d prefer tripping over lace monitors in a garden oasis than strolling through a streamlined chain hotel. Kewarra’s isolated beachfront seems idyllic, but I’m hoping that finding transportation in to town won’t be a hassle.
The Kuranda Scenic Railway/Skyrail Tour – We’ll take a scenic railway tour through the cane fields of Cairns until we arrive in Kuranda Village, in the lush rainforest. This colorful artist’s village is also home to a butterfly & bird sanctuary. We’ll even see the Barron Falls and an Allosaurus. Our visit to Kuranda will end with a skyrail rainforest cableway, where we’ll soar over the treetops. The skyrail ends near Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, home to Australia’s largest indigenous park and longest stage show. We’ll probably check that out.
I’ll probably splurge and we’ll dine like royalty at Flames of the Forest – a candlelit dining experience in the middle of the rainforest that serves hors d’oeuvres, a six-course meal, and Australian fine wine all while enjoying an aboriginal dinner show – storytelling and didgeridoo included.
Daintree Walkabout Tour – One personal requirement of my trip was to have some sort of aboriginal cultural experience. I wanted more interaction than a show and more hands-on learning than a museum. The Daintree Walkabout Tour was recommended by my TEQ contact. There are several elements to this tour. The first, and in my opinion most exciting facet, is the Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime walk. Beginning at Mossman Gorge (seriously beautiful; Google photos), an indigenous guide will weave us through culturally significant sites in the rainforest, share legends, and explain the aboriginal survival in this tropical climate. After the hike, we’ll enjoy a Barramundi lunch at Silky Oaks Lodge overlooking the Gorge. The tour then takes to the water for a Daintree River Cruise where we’ll likely spot birds, tree snakes and the estuarine crocodile (yikes). If lunch weren’t enough, we’ll visit Scomazzon Fruit & Cane Farm (an exotic fruit orchard) where we’ll indulge in a tropical fruit tasting of those that are in season. The day’s tour concludes with exploring the vibrant village of historic Port Douglas.
Quicksilver Outer Barrier Reef Cruise – Because a trip to Queensland wouldn’t be complete without a dive of the Great Barrier Reef. This tour was recommended by my contact at TEQ. During the 1.5 hour cruise to Australia’s continental shelf, we’ll watch a 30-minute marine biologist presentation as well as a snorkeling/diving demonstration. Upon arriving at the Agincourt Reef, we’ll enjoy 3 hours of swimming, snorkeling, diving, fish feeding, and viewing an underwater observatory. And we’ll enjoy an on board lunch! With the Quicksilver Outer Barrier Reef Cruise, we’re opting for the beginner scuba option.
HAMILTON ISLAND – 4 Days
Accommodation – Reef View Hotel
If you look at the photo, I bet you can guess how this hotel received its name. I not-so-secretly hope we’ll be upgraded to a room with these magical ocean views. Located in the infamous Whitsundays, this four-star hotel boasts spacious rooms, world-class dining, equipment rentals, and exceptional service. There’s a glorious pool and gorgeous beach. My expectations of Reef View Hotel? High as the tide during the full moon.
Wildlife Hamilton Island – Cuddling a koala is unquestionably on the Queensland bucket list, but eating breakfast WITH them? If anyone knows anything about my relationship with Mr. Mysterious, it’s that breakfast is OUR meal. And Mr. Mysterious LOVES koalas. I mean, our relationship was practically founded on breakfast. Less than 12 hours after we had met, we were enjoying breakfast with mutual friends. And I shamelessly ordered a stack of chocolate chip pancakes (with whipped cream, of course) AND a side of bacon, crispy. And he still wanted to date me. It’s like our relationship was meant to have this breakfast with koalas at Wildlife Hamilton Island.
Bushwalks – Hamilton Island has a network of walking trails to explore the ecosystem of the island, discover hidden coves, and look out at elevated views of the island. I’m thinking a picnic escape will be on the agenda for this island wandering. Just look at this map! We could get lost in the island’s beauty for hours.
Whitehaven Beach Tour – Before I began planning this trip, my head was spinning with the colors and fish of the barrier reef. But now I’m dreaming of the swirling whites & blues of Whitehaven Beach, considered among the best beaches in the world (ranked #3 by TripAdvisor, #11 by CNN). The sand is is 98% silica, making it pure and white and soft and lovely. You can only get there by booking a tour and can only stay for a few hours – so we are doing the Whitehaven Beach Tour with Cruise Indigo. And my heart just swells with joy every time I imagine being on the world’s most beautiful beach with the world’s most wonderful guy (sap alert!).
So there it is! The queen-like Queensland itinerary.
If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions or insights about Sydney, Cairns or Hamilton Island, I’d love to hear it in the comments below!