Pat W's Trip report-Queensland

Old Jan 17th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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Pat W's Trip report-Queensland

Hi Again,
Having been to Hamilton Island on our honeymoon 17 years ago we were looking forward to visiting other parts of Queensland.

We had a very nice flight on Qantas (2hrs 35 min) The 747 offered seatback entertainment systems including movies, tv shows and games. The flt went quickly and before we knew it we were looking out the window at the incredible blues of the Coral Sea and the rich greens of the rainforest. Arrival in Cairns was smooth and we took a cab from the airport to the Cairns International Hotel. ($14. AUD)

There has been much posted about Cairns and it seems to be the general opinion, get in and get out. I have to disagree. We really enjoyed Cairns. You have to accept it for what it is. What struck me is that it has an almost western USA town flavor. The architecture has a western flavor and its a little bit wild. Yes, it is a backpackers paradise, but that gives it an energy that is exciting.

The Cairns Intl. hotel on Abbot Street claims to be the most deluxe hotel in town and I have to agree. The room was huge and the bathroom was also. Our balcony looked out over town and the Coral Sea. The pool area was gorgeous.

There are some really good restaurants in Cairns also. I have decided that AUS has the best pizza's in the world (and I have been on all continents except Antartica) and I love pizza. Boy, what choices in AUS. Tandori chicken pizza, Mexican barbeque pizza, eggplan and feta cheese pizza, etc etc. The best restaurant we found in Cairns was Verdi's. The food and the service were great and very important for my husband, it was air conditioned. We wanted to go back again but the wait on the Sunday night (Dec 28) was over an hour, so we went to Pasta Fasta instead. Great Pasta dishes there.

We also stayed in POrt DOuglas. Sorry all, but I did not think Port Douglas was all it was cracked up to be. Perhaps my expectations were so low for Cairns and so high for PD that the reality of them shifted. I did not think PD had much style. It was nice but not somehwere I would go out of my way to visit again. Mango Jam's was our favorite restaurant there. We stayed at Rydges Reef Resort. It claims to be a 4 star. In my mind it barely was a 3 star. We reserved a suite, which we really just two rooms, connecting. Furniture was circa 1970 Holiday Inn style. Bathrooms were dated and overall just tacky. Please be aware, as I learned from this board, you can not drink the water in PD. The hotel had water coolers near the rooms and we filled up our water bottles there. The pool was nice. Also, many of the hotels in PD claim to be across the street from the beach. This was claimed by Rydges. The thing is, you can not see the beach and yes, it is across the street, but once you cross the street it is a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. I enjoyed the walk but not the hotel.

The cream of the crop though for my taste were the Northern Beaches (less than 30 mins north of Cairns). We stayed at Outrigger Beach CLub in Palm Cove. Palm Cove is my idea of paradise. Wide beautiful beaches (can't go in the water though in Dec due to stingers) gorgeous palm trees and a relaxed pace. The esplanade is meant to be used by cars but as most the hotels have their parking garages in the back, the esplanade is used mostly by people out for a stroll. The Beach Club is a bit toward the northern end of Palm Cove. It is a brand new property and still does not have its liquor license (so, the pool bar was not open) The one bedroom suite we had was nothing short of WOW. It even had an in room washer dryer which we had planned on. This is why we brought only carry-on. We knew we could wash everything and start clean, so to speak. We are also very good packers. The entire suite was white. White floors, white walls, white furniture in the bedroom. The living room had an entertainment system with CD player, DVD player, etc. The lanai had a coach, tabale and 4 chairs.

The hotel has 2 pools, including one with a beach. They also have a number of suites on the 3rd level that have their own jacuzzis with glass walls. Very interesting.

The best restaurant we found in Palm Cove was Far Horizons. It is right on the beach and if they are having a busy night, they simply bring more tables out and place them on the lawn by the beach. The food was great.

I must say, that I live near NYC and am use to NYC prices but I thought that food was very expensive in AUS. Grant it, when I started planning this trip it took .56 US to but $1.00 and by the time we got there it was .75, but I did think that food was expensive. For example, main courses, where we dined, averaged around $30-$34 AUD. Yes, we did dine cheaper also, but pizzas ranged around $16.AUD. None the less, all the meals were wonderful.

Activities in Queensland on the next post.
patw is offline  
Old Jan 18th, 2004, 12:55 AM
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Hi Pat - that's great and glad you enjoyed Far Horizons - what a top spot for a restaurant. Did you try the weekday buffet lunch at Coco's in the International in Cairns - it's got to be the best value - I usually hate hotel buffets but this one is interesting and innovative - only AUD $16 a head with very pleasant surroundings. It's a bit difficult to compare cost of eating in OZ to US with it's enormous population - also cost of beef and lamb has risen due partly to one of the worst droughts in Australia's history and new fishing restrictions will make fish more expensive. Restaurant staff are quite well paid here which adds to the cost of serving a meal, and tipping here is only optional. Glad you liked the pizzas!
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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Hi Pat,
Looks like I am not alone in adoring Palm Cove.
I will be back too !
I found Australia more expensive for somethings, but that was down to the exchange rate really, it was 15% worse than I had planned, US $ is probably even worse than that.
Great report

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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 09:52 AM
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When we visited my mother-in-law in Australia in 1996, our Canadian dollar was worth less than the Aussie dollar. Then when we started planning this trip, the CAD was more than the AUD. Now they same to be about the same. You know, I'm looking at this way - it's costing a lot to fly there anyway, so a few dollars here or there isn't going to make much of a difference one way or another. (Besides, Canadians are used to our dollars doing poorly!)
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Old Jan 18th, 2004, 04:54 PM
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It's true that "list" menu prices in US restaurants usually have to be loaded by around 25% to cover tips and state sales taxes. Australian staff don't rely on tips to make a living wage, and the 10% Federal GST (goods & services tax) is included in your bill.

Having said that, I have some sympathy for patw. A dining experience has to be well above average for me to feel happy paying $35 for a main course, and sadly that's not always the case.

You can reduce the pain by eating at a decent "BYO" (bring your own wine) restaurant, where you can find one, as restaurateurs typically mark up their wines by at least 100%. The ubiquitous garlic and herb breads are another profit-booster, as is the iniquitous practice of pricing your vegetables as an optional side dish. It may also be prudent to take a closer look at places whose owners have obviously just spent a small fortune on a trendy makeover, the effect of which is to create a roomful of hard surfaces that make conversation near-impossible.

Neil_Oz is offline  
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