Oz Campervan Adventure Part 8: Cairns and Surroundings Including the Great Barrier Reef

Finally out of the outback we find ourselves in Cairns where we explore the city and the wonderful Great Barrier Reef. Whilst Cairns is a fairly small town there are rainforests, mountains, boulders and hippie markets to explore in the surrounding areas making it a great place for adventure.

Wave your hands in the air like you don’t Cair-ns

Day 40: 12th December 2017

We arrived in Cairns hoping for some cool sea air and sweatless sleep.  Nope, not going to happen – Cairns has a hot humid city so our heat torture continued.  But we were by the sea and close to pubs so things would turn out ok. Our first night we kept it steady and had a short walk around Cairns to get some sea air.

Day 41: 13th December 2017

Early start today to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.  Excited!  We arrived at the boat on-time and set off in high spirits.  The high spirits soon diminished thanks to the motion of the ocean and Louise had to retire to the back of the boat to look at the skyline with a few sea sick tablets.  Thankfully it was only a quick two hours of choppy waters to the reef.

At the reef we donned our blue morph suits (anti-jelly fish sting suits really), spat in our goggles and dived in.  Once in the water the focus was first to get away from the other divers and find some space to explore the beauties of the deep (well, up to about 2 meters deep).  Away from the hordes of other blue floaters the experience watching and exploring the reef life was serene and mesmerising.  The parts of the reef we visited were huge and full of life.  We know that unfortunately they are a shadow of their former selves and thinking this over could have placed a downer on the end of the trip…but there was free wine and no-one likes a party-pooper! (no, seriously, let’s look after our planet!)

Day 42: 14th December 2017

Today we strolled around the city of Cairns before spending the afternoon lazing on the wonderful Esplanade Lagoon.  These Lagoons are fantastic and are found in a lot of the major stops along the east coast.  The risk of shark and jellyfish attacks means that people avoid going into the sea, so man-made lagoons with sandy beaches and paddling/swimming areas are extremely popular and a welcome method of cooling down from the heat.  The Cairn’s Esplanade Lagoon was one of our favourites that we encountered on our trip and it was right next to a lot of bars so in the evening we settled down with a couple of cool beers.  Perfect day.

Day 43: 15th December 2017

We decided to leave Cairns and head back to the Atherton Tablelands.  We spent the night there on the way to Cairns and thought the scenery was beautiful and loved it’s cooler climate. First off though we headed North through the stunning Kuranda Range and onwards to the Kuranda Rainforest Markets.

The Henry Ross Lookout

The Markets were the ultimate in hippie chic.  Full of quirky market stalls selling handmade trinkets, clothes and answers to life’s problems. We spent a good hour or so strolling around and enjoying the peaceful vibe.

From there it was a short drive to Baron Falls where we completed a short walk through the rainforest to get a glimpse of the falls.

Baron Falls

We then missioned on to Kairi to check out the dam and find a beautiful spot to camp just outside of Atherton.

Day 44: 16th December 2017

We started the day hunting for an Australian legend – the platypus. There are a few platypus hot-spots in the tablelands and we found a walking trail at Yungaburra where the infamously shy beast had been known to make an appearance.  We crept along the trail paying close attention to the water.  Maybe it was the wrong time of day, or maybe it was all the joggers with their dogs but unfortunately we didn’t spot any this time. Darn it.

Platypus (non-) Viewing Platform

Making our way to the Babinda Boulders campground we stopped at various walks and waterfalls.  The highlights were the Curtain Fig National Park with it’s immense Curtain Fig tree and the Milla Milla falls. At the campground we were treated to a Miami-esque sunset as we settled down for the evening.

Day 45: 17th December 2017

Waking up at the Babinda Boulders there is only one thing to do – go for a swim.  The Babinda Boulders is surrounded by lush rainforest and has a crystal clear water hole for a cooling dip.  This was really the start of our love for natural waterholes.  Driving down the east coast of Australia is a long undertaking and finding croc-free waterholes is the perfect remedy for sweaty hours in the seat of a roasting hot campervan.  The Babinda Boulders was the best free camping spots we stayed at so definitely worth a stop if you are heading past.

Babinda Boulders Waterhole

In the afternoon our detour to the Tablelands and exploring the area near Cairns came to an end and we started the 2,500km journey south along the A1 which would eventually take us back to Sydney.  Thankfully we had just under a month to do it so plenty of time to catch some waves, soak up the sun and enjoy the East Coast life. More to come soon.

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