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Kwarren Apr 2nd, 2007 10:05 AM

Cairns v Melbourne - Advice please
My husband and I are going to Australia in June. We will be visiting Brisbane (his birthpalce) and Sydney/Blue Mountains. We are going to add a third destination (Cairns/Great Barrier Reef or Melbourne) but need some advice before deciding.

Cairns: We are not divers (brain aneurism) but do snorkel. Knowing that we won't be able to explore the depths of the reef - is the snorkeling worth the trip (a difference of US$600)? Will we see things that make the reef unique and not think "Well, this look like the Bahamas")? If we day trip out to the reef, we also plan to go into the rainforest the next day.

Melbourne: One day exploring the city, one day at winery, and one day in old gold rush town.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

DownUnder Apr 2nd, 2007 02:46 PM

Cairns v Melbourne. Two entirely different destinations and experiences. I am sure the majority of the contributors will suggest Cairns, hands down. This site can be very parochial! There is no doubt that the GBR is a magical place and you don't have to be a diver to enjoy it. Viewing the myriad of multicolour fish and coral from a glass bottom boat is a great thrill. The scenery around the Cairns area is magnificent so really it is Cairns for all of that. Now if you want to visit some of Australia's history it is definitely Melbourne and Victoria. The Gold Rush towns of Castlemaine and Maldon are a delight with a tourist recreation of the Goldfields in Ballarat. The Yarra Valley or the Mornington Peninsular are only an hours drive from Melbourne and both areas produce excellent wines with many wineries to visit.
Melbourne is a great shopping and cultural destination which also worth considering.

Jango Apr 2nd, 2007 02:59 PM

I live just out of Melbourne and love it but I vote hands down for Cairns.

shandy Apr 2nd, 2007 04:19 PM

As much as I love Melbourne I would have to say Cairns on this occasion.

I think you need to have a mix on your vacation and doing only three large cities in a row is too much of the same thing for my liking. By adding in Cairns/GBR you will get a totaly different perspective of what Australia has to offer. As others have mentioned, you can certainly have a wonderful time even without diving.

Bokhara Apr 2nd, 2007 04:31 PM

Hi Kwarren,
I'd go to Cairns. It has so much more to offer in addition to the reef.
It's a fascinating location and, as others have said, will be a complete contrast to BNE & SYD. You can take great day trips to the Atherton Tablelands & other places (just do a search on "Cairns" here on Fodors & you'll get a taste for what's on offer.)

As to snorkling: yes - you can see lots without scuba.

LizzyF Apr 2nd, 2007 05:37 PM

Melbourne in winter? Gosh now that is a hard choice..........NOT! Its Cairns any time of year, any year. Besides the reef there is the rest of the surrounding areas in that area and if I were you I would take off the Blue Mountains and add time in North Queensland.

Kwarren Apr 2nd, 2007 08:45 PM

Thanks to all for the detailed and speedy replies. I agree that a non-city expereince it essential to this trip.

jcasale Apr 3rd, 2007 10:36 AM

One more vote for Cairns. Also, to specifically answer your question about seeing things that you could just as easily see in the Bahamas - you will be AMAZED!!!!! I have snorkeled quite a bit all throughout the Caribbean and I saw things on the Great Barrier Reef that I had never in my life seen. Some of what you see (coral and fish) are the same, but alot is different. There are different colors, different shapes of coral and the fish are way bigger and more colorful. Add to that the giant clams and you have the recipe for a fabulous experience that will ruin you for snorkeling anywhere else. Going up to Daintree and Cape Tribulation was also wonderful. You might want to consider basing yourself in Port Douglas since it is easier to get up to the rainforest. There is also a boat out of Port Douglas (I believe it's Wavelength, but maybe someone else can help here) that focuses on people who are snorkelers. I heard very good things about it, but we ended up spending the night out on the reef on Reef Encounter. It was an incredible experience.

Suelynne Apr 3rd, 2007 09:37 PM

June will be heaven in Cairns and pretty cold in Melbourne.

JohnFitz Apr 3rd, 2007 10:19 PM

I am a Melbournian but I vote for Cairns in so far as weather is concerned.Melbourne would be better this time of year , spring or summer .
I was in FNQ mid June last year and there are a lot of excellent things to do besides the GBReef . The chairlift tour up to Kuranda and driving to the Atherton Tablelands are but two options.Wonderful waterfalls to detour to eg Emerald Falls . Youngaburra ( my spelling maybe wrong ) is lovely and has a monthly market and the crater lakes quite special . Crystal Cascades just out of Cairns is also lovely . The drive to Cape Tribulation and crossing the Daintree River is wonderful .These are free to visit save use of the Kuranda chairlift and the car punt across the river .Not many places left in the world where that is the case .
Do keep in mind that we found the weather unseasonally cool last year and very windy. Locals confirmed then and subsequently that that can be the case .But it is still t-shirt weather .But the winds made planning trips to the GBR hard . We used Synergy 11 out of Port Douglas which was good because it is a smaller but very good boat with just 12 passengers and as it is small was able to select and access smaller protected reefs to visit which made it easier for us to snorkel .Others who regularly assist on this site who live in the area will no doubt give you better details about places to visit

SmittyOz Apr 4th, 2007 02:21 AM

Melbourne v Cairns?

no competition

more to see, heritage, restaurants
atmosphere, sport
NO cane toads, stingers
tyhoons, cyclones or mudflats
Even decent weather unlike
Cairns (hot and humid or hot and wet)

pat_woolford Apr 4th, 2007 03:03 AM

In June, Cairns area. Half of population of Melbourne is here anyway, particularly in Port Douglas and Palm Cove. No stingers either in June, its well past cyclone season (they are not called typhoons in Australia)and its not hot, humid or wet. Its called the dry season and max temps hardly exceed about 27C.

Kwarren Apr 5th, 2007 09:04 AM

So the decisionn has been made and here is the brief outline of our intinerary. Anyone with suggestions/recommendations, please feel free to jump in.

We leave Austin the night of June 2nd, arrive in Brisbane morning of June 4th. Will see husband's birthplace, childhood home, etc. Taking it easy on first day.

June 5th: Nothing scheduled yet.

June 6th: Down to Tiger Island in Coomera to walk a bengal tiger for an hour and see the just born sumatran tiger cubs! This will be a real treat since less than 400 sumatrans remain throughout the world.

June 7th: Fly to Cairns, arrive at 9:30 AM. Spend day exploring city.

June 8th: GBR with Ocean Spirit sail and snorkel cruise.

June 9th: Self-drive out to Undara Lava Tubes (through Kuranda) for guided tours and overnight camp-out.

June 10th: Self-drive to Cairns through Atherton Tablelands.

June 11th: Fly to Sydney. No plans. Just wander.

June 12th: Opera House tour in morning. Harbour Cruise in afternoon.

June 13th: Museums, Historical walking tours, etc.

June 14th: Bridge Walk. Rest of day open.

June 15th: No plans.

Juen 16th: Fly back to Austin. Flight leaves at 1:25 PM.

Still need to make hotels reservations everywhere but Undara and finalize rental car for Undara drive. I will post a report upon return.

Bokhara Apr 5th, 2007 12:35 PM

You'll be in Sydney for the Queen's Birthday long weekend. It's a public holiday on Monday 11th, but usually pretty low-key; shops etc., will be open.

I think your itinerary looks great - you'll see and experience a variety of places, with enough time to enjoy them all. Have fun :)

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