Help needed with travel plans...

Nov 5th, 2005, 10:36 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 3
Help needed with travel plans...


My family and I will be travelling to Oz on 7 December thru 31 December 05 from the desert in Arizona. We sure could use some help as this is a very special trip for us and we want it to be the best. We are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and 40th birthday.

We are traveling with our two boys 4 and 8. Going to Melbourne for 4 nights, Sydney 3 nights, then to Hamilton Island for 6 nights, on to Dunk Island for 6 nights, with the final leg 3 nights in Cairns before returning to Sydney then home.

We have the following questions and would really appreciate your help/advice:

Which island is best to take our GBR snorkeling/sight seeing trips from?

Which is the best snorkeling/sightseeing tour group to go out with for GBR?

Will there be jelly fish about during this time? Anything else we need to be aware of that might be a problem during this timeframe? Heat, bugs etc...

Have not booked the Cairns part yet, any suggestions on good places to stay for familes. We heard about a tram ride to the rainforest any other suggestions?

Any advice for all the places we are planning to see would be so helpful to us.

Many thanks...

mnight is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 03:53 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
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There absolutely will be stingers (box jelly fish) around in Far North Queensland in December. Islands far off shore don't have the problem since the jelly fish breed in the river mouths and then spread along the mainland coast. So you can go snorkling on the reef and be all right and swim on islands far off shore. Ask at the resort about the safety of your particular islands.

There are "stinger nets" (makes kind of like a big swimming pool in the ocean) on some beaches off the mainland that are supposed to keep the jelly fish out, but some locals don't trust them. I have seen other jelly fish inside the stinger net at Mission Beach (near Dunk Island) though no box jelly fish but it begs the question that if those could get in why not stingers? DON'T IGNORE THE SIGNS ABOUT THE STINGERS OR SWIM OFF A BEACH ON THE FNQ MAINLAND OUTSIDE A NET.

There will be heat and there will be some bugs and there may be rain (take rain gear). The mosquitoes don't seem as vicious as the ones we have in Florida. Many of the houses remarkably have no screens in the windows and people do just fine, though more are getting screens recently.

FNQ is my favorite part of the world. I've travelled there 5 times, 3 times in December. I lucked out with the rain each time so maybe you will too and I like the tropics so the heat was fine for me.

No advice for places to stay in Cairns as I have friends there. But my husband really enjoyed a trip inland to the Atherton Tablelands for something different than more beach/coast experience. A day trip to Kuranda to coincide with the Kuranda Market might be nice after all your time on the islands. There are lots of tour companies to take you on a trip inland.
LynAK is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 04:24 AM
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P.S. I think your kids would enjoy going to the Cairns Tropical Zoo on one of your days (formerly known as Wild World). Check out the website

This is a very sweet zoo. Big enough to have lots to do but not be overwhelming. My kids loved it...they enjoyed it more than Taronga Zoo in Sydney! Lots of native Australian animals.
LynAK is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 05:49 AM
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Hi LynAk, it is not at all remarkable that many homes in tropical North Queensland (far closer to the equator than southern Florida) don't have insect screens - they impede the natural airflow needed to cool homes without resorting to shutting everything up and turning on enviromentally wasteful a/c's.

A decently and fairly sensitively managed tropical home doesn't need screens for insect control, after all it all comes apart if someone leaves a door open for 5 minutes. And one doesn't come to the tropics to live in a sealed box. Plus, our indoor geckoes are great bug killers if they are not interfered with.

Your jellyfish advice is sound, and unlike many of our neigbouring countries which have similar problems, Australia does address it and warn tourists.

mnight: Your biggest worry at that time of year, won't be jellyfish, it will be sunburn, sun is at its fiercest so slather everyone with the highest factor. Its a good idea when snorkelling on reef to wear an old t-shirt for a bit more protection

pat_woolford is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 03:29 PM
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Thanks so much for your advice it is truly appreciated! We will definately mind the jellyfish warnings.

Still not sure about the following and would love your advice:

Which island is best to take our GBR snorkeling/sight seeing trips from? Is it safe to go out snorkeling on our own or do you recommend guided tours?

Which is the best snorkeling/sightseeing tour group to go out with for GBR?

Do we need to prebook the island flights now and GBR tours or can we wait until we get there?

Cairns - any suggestions on good places to stay for familes with lots of amenities for kids?

Again thanks for your advice and help!
mnight is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 03:36 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Hey..don't know why the first post of mine went twice...sorry!

Anyway, Pat, it really is remarkable for someone from Florida to encounter a home with no window screens. It gets very hot here too and the screens do impede the flow...I know FNQ is closer to the equator but something is different! If we had no screens on our windows we would literally be eaten alive and that doesn't happen in places I've stayed in FNQ. Wonderful and makes me love the place all the more.

Also, I remembered that the train ride to Kuranda is the way to get there. It is a great trip, reasonably priced and the Kuranda train station is a tourist attraction in itself. It has hundreds if not thousands of ferns and plants hanging everywhere. The train is an old style train and there is lots of history about the building of the was a very challenging endeavor. The ride up the mountain has great views and some waterfalls along the way.
LynAK is offline  
Nov 8th, 2005, 05:13 PM
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LynAK, reminds me of a story when it was suggested to an old local that he flyscreened his home - he asked "how are the flies going to get out?"

We do have a few little tricks though, use odourless plug-in mosquito zappers at night for inside and burn mosquito coils if out on verandah in evening, usually only in summer. Local council Health Dept is very diligent with fogging, which does help. Also have permanent fly traps which are set into grounds and maintained by manufacturer.

For Kuranda most take the scenic train one way and Skyrail the other. That way you get to see the rainforest from above and below.

pat_woolford is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 04:35 PM
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Most of your replies have been answers about Queensland, but I am wondering why you are spending four days in Melbourne at the beginning. We stayed once before, but only briefly, and I am wondering if we should include it in May. What have I missed?
oliverandharry is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 06:06 PM
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Mnight - in answer to your question about snorkeling trips: I'm not sure if you were planning to stay in Cairns or Port Douglas. There is a boat that does strictly snorkeling nad takes only 30 passengers. They go out of Port Douglas, but they have transfers available from Cairns if that's where you are staying. I have not used them, but they were recommended on this forum and from everything I can see, they look to be the best option for snorkeling. Their website is:
Check them out. A friend of our went there a while back and told us to stay away from the big operators like Quicksilver. 100 people all heading to the same place? No thanks.

As for your question on places to stay: again we are planning to stay in Port Douglas. Closer to the Daintree area and Cape Tribulation. The tram into the rainforest you mentioned can be found at:
We will prbably stay at the Archipelago Studio Apartments in Port Douglas. Recommended by Frommers and got some good mentions when I asked on this forum.
Centrally located and reasonably priced. They have rooms with a queen bed and 2 single beds so you would be able to fit your whole family with no problem.
Have a fun trip!
jcasale is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 09:29 PM
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I'm also wondering why longer in Melbourne than Sydney - when Sydney has the great beaches - and December is a great time here. What are you expecting from Melbourne?
margo_oz is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 11:04 PM
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jca - 100 passengers, I wish, more like 400 on Quicksilver's Wavepiercer, which assume is the vessel you're referring to. Wavelength is well established with excellent reef sites in that area and caters to snorkellers only (max. 30 passengers), but of course the boat is much smaller. Ocean Spirit now has a new snorkelling only trip - motor/sailer catamaran out of Cairns and can also be boarded at Palm Cove Jetty. Lovely vessel, just been brought up here from Sydney Harbour.

But I think mnight is asking about GBR snorkelling trips from Dunk(south of Cairns) and Hamilton Islands (Whitsundays). Sorry mnight, can't help you here as am only familiar with operators around Cairns and north, but am sure someone else will chime in.
pat_woolford is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 01:42 PM
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Melbourne is a great place in the summer and is the base to set off down the Great Ocean Road, which should not be missed. Famous road that curves right along the cliff fronts (including Bells Beach) with beautiful beaches and cleaner than Bondi in Sydney. You can organise tours in Melbourne to do this, they do overnight ones also. St Kilda is a metropolitan area of the city by the beach that is extremely popular in summer, with lots of restaurants, cafes bars and colour and luna park. YOu can catch a tram right there. There is also the Werribee Open Range zoo which the kids would love and brilliant shopping. You could also do a day trip to Mornington Peninsula where there are more lovely beaches and a very laid back country pace.
yehlo is offline  
Nov 15th, 2005, 06:00 PM
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Thanks to everyone for your wonderful suggestions, we do appreciate them. Regarding Melbourne, my mom's brothers and sisters live there 8 in all and we have about 40 cousins to meet. It will be a huge family reunion. My mom will spend her time there it will be her first Christmas with her brothers and sisters in over 30 years.

We have not booked a place to stay in Cairns yet and our now looking at Port Douglas as well, having a tough time deciding. Want to stay by the beach but am afraid of the stingers especially with my two young boys.

We just extended our trip to include one more day in Sydney. Which will allow us to stay for New Years Eve in Sydney. Don't know what would be the best place to go for the fireworks with the kids. Any suggestions?

Best Regards
mnight is offline  
Nov 16th, 2005, 12:33 AM
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For NYE, we always go to Mort Bay in Balmain. It's a great family atmosphere and never gets really crowded. Great view of the Harbour. Balmain is a historical suburb on a peninsula with lots of pubs and terrace houses. THey close the peninsula off at 3.00pm to private cars but taxis and buses still run. There is a Woolworths supermarket that sells BBQ chicken & salads a couple of blocks away if you get there before 5.00pm. Just call and order in advance.
WIth younger kids, keep in mind that there is also fireworks at 9.00 pm.

You could also look at taking a cruise. Try Matilda Cruises or Captain Cook.

In the past, the Opera House also sold tickets to an enclosed area in the Botanic Gardens overlooking the harbour which is very nice and very close. They set up food stalls where you could buy food and drinks. You can also bring a picnic. Bring a rug. We paid $60 a head several years ago but I'm not sure what they are this year, or if they will be doing it again.
A lot of families go to the earlier ones and watch the midnight show on TV.

I don't recommend the Rocks as it can get very rough and terribly crowded.

Enjoy -this year we are spending our NYE in the air flying between London and Tanzania. It won't be the same but I hope we get lots of bubbly and that there is lots of room to spread out.
Sarvowinner is offline  
Nov 16th, 2005, 05:02 PM
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I took my 6 and 8 year old kids to Australia for three weeks this past August. We spent 6 nights at the Hilton in Cairns, and 1 night at the Mirage in Port Douglas. This was all done on hotel points, so I didn't shop around. I did however notice that the hotel discount site had good pricing compared to the Hilton website.

The Hilton was a perfect choice for us. It is located right at the end of the esplanade, near the new man-made beach (as there is no natural beach). The service was excellent too, as they put us on the executive level which entitled us to free breakfast. We rented a car and went to different sights during the day, and then returned around dinner time. The night markets (food) are just down the street. My kids liked choosing from all the various cuisines. And Cairns is a lot more lively than Port Douglas. I realize that this goes against most people's recommendations, but for us Cairns was a better choice.

The tourist sights they enjoyed the most were:

1) Tjabukai, which you can complete in half a day. They teach you to throw a spear and a boomerang. You also get a digeridoo demonstation, bush tucker info, a brief history of aboriginals in FNQ, and more.

2) Rainforest Habitat in Port Douglas. They get to wander around with the kangeroos and wallabies. There are birds, koalas, snakes and more that they can be photographed with at no extra charge (unless you wish to donate). My son still dreams about when he shook hands with a kangeroo!

3) Hartley's Crocodile Adventure. This was very entertaining. We all had a great time there, and the guides were funny and informative.

Of course I am assuming that you will already have gone snorkelling on the reef. If not, don't miss it. The kids loved it. I would recommend Ocean Spirit, as the kids can run around on an island when they get tired in the water.

One other suggestion, if your kids are willing to try new foods, take them to Red Ochre restaurant for lunch. The kids menu had kangeroo on it, which my 8 year old son insisted on tasting. It was excellent, as were all the dishes, and the price was reasonable.

Have a great time!
poutine is offline  
Nov 19th, 2005, 11:42 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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When we were in Sydney our kids loved the Taronga Zoo, but this depends on what zoos you have been to in US and abroad, but it was delightful with nice views. Also the bridge walk/tour is an option to look into which my kids loved. We stayed 6 days on Hamilton Isl. and booked all our excursions upon arrival (Whitsundays, etc) for snorkeling, great barrier reef, etc. You might inquire from your lodging place on Hamilton as far as booking prior depending on time of year, we were there in March and no problems - just as some have referenced, our main thing was avoiding sunburn, swimming/snorkeling with a light spf t shirt, lots of lotion repeated throughout day. How exciting - you will love it all and the kids esp will love the roaming kangaroos on Hamilton Is.
escargot is offline  

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