It is rare that I get a chance to take some time to appreciate the true beauty of the travel opportunities that surround me here in Australia. When I got news that my beautiful exchange friend Taylor was choosing to come over for her graduation trip, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her. It was in the middle of my University session, right when all my midterms and assessments were due, however I couldn’t let the opportunity fly by. So I booked 4 days in lovely sunny Cairns in northern QLD.
Taylor and her best friend Janessa are from Ontario in Eastern Canada. For them I knew the heat, beaches, food, culture and scenery would be an incredible experience. Palm trees, Indian curries, Thai salads, white sandy beaches and sunshine are some of the things that I take for granted and get to experience so often. It was great to be surrounded by two amazing travel partners who got me excited about exploring Australia.
I flew with Virgin Australia up the east coast of Australia from Sydney, which only took about 3 hours. The return flight cost me $260 which was surprising. When I landed, I split a cab with three women from Ireland to get into the centre of town. There was a local bus and airport shuttle however it did incur a bit of a wait and I was so excited to hit the wine and meet up with the girls. We enjoyed a good old Aussie BBQ, also meeting some lovely German travellers.
It was amazing to hear how travellers get around, found long-term accommodation, found work and moreover what they felt of Australia as a country. It was extremely interesting to hear how travellers do it. I find Australia very expensive to travel in, so it was nice to get some tips on how exactly it is done right. When you are a local you have a very different perspective on the traveling and accommodation options.
Taylor, Janessa and I hired a car through AVIS, and arriving late for the pickup enabled me to get upgraded to a sport model. We found the back doors on the third day of our trip, which was hilarious. Poor Janessa was climbing through as if it was a two-door every day. Sporty cars are very deceiving. Having the car was the best way to head north and explore the coastline. We traveled to Kuranda, Port Douglas, Palm Cove, the Daintree rainforest and even right up to Cape Tribulation, the end of the bitumen road north!
The wildlife was very intimidating up north, even for an Australian. There is always an unsettling feeling of salt-water crocodiles as well as having face-sized colourful spiders swinging around the bush walks. The beaches have stinger nets, crocodile warnings, stinger safety kits (vinegar) and lifeguard sign warnings as you enter and also on the beach as well. Very different to the NSW South coast. The coastline is a little churned up in this area and not the picturesque Great Barrier Reef, with the turquoise coloured water you expect. However it is warm, the sand is white and I was with beautiful company, so I loved every minute of my long weekend.
I highly recommend taking the opportunity to spend a few hundred dollars to visit the stunning locations around Australia. It doesn’t take much and staying in hostels and taking advantage of free tourist attractions such as bush walks, local markets, lagoons and beaches can help save you a bucket load. Splitting costs with a few friends is also a fantastic way to experience the best there is on offer. Start planning that weekend trip, get out and about, as no one ever regrets traveling. You will also meet some amazing people, and see your own country in an incredible new light.