Trip Suggestions -- Sydney and Cairns-area

Sep 2nd, 2009, 07:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 11
Trip Suggestions -- Sydney and Cairns-area

I have reviewed many of the posts on Sydney and Cairns generally and have found the information to be great, so thought I would ask for some help for our upcoming trip as well. We are three 30 year old women heading to Australia for our first time and will be there in late September, arriving in Sydney on Tuesday, September 22nd, and flying out of Cairns on Sunday, October 5th. We are all very outdoorsy, and so are looking forward to hiking, exploring the reef, etc.

We will be spending six days in the Sydney area - with 3 nights in Sydney proper, and two nights in the Blue Mountains. We have accommodations reserved for both places. In the Blue Mountains, we will be staying at Echo Point. We are looking for great suggestions about what to do, specifically in the Blue Mountains, whether any "tours" are recommended, or whether people suggest just hiking on our own, etc, places to eat, etc. One of us is on a budget (the other two less so), so reasonable suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Then we fly into Cairns on Sunday night (arriving around 10pm) and then have a flight back to the United States the following Sunday, very early in the morning. We're still completely undecided about our itinerary during our time up North. We'd been thinking about spending a few days docked in Port Douglas (for reef and rainforest exploration), and a few days on an island, with our final night in Cairns (preferably somewhere near the airport - if anyone has any suggestions for cheap places, our flight is very early). Does this itinerary seem reasonable? Is there a reason to base out of Cairns for a few days, instead of having all of our reef exploration be out of Port Douglas?

Unfortunately, upon further research into the islands, it appears that most are either too far or closed (e.g., the Fitzroy, and Hinchinbrook). Does anyone have recommendations for islands near to Cairns? Or if people suggest simply staying at beaches on the coast, instead of islands, we'd appreciate those suggestions too. Also, we may be subdividing the group for the island portion, so both budget-conscious suggestions, and less budget-conscious (but, still under A$400) suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

If the island portion of our trip doesn't work out logistically, would people recommend subdividing our time between Cairns and Port Douglas, or simply spending the entire week in one of those locations?

Anyway, we'd appreciate any recommendations for any portions of our trip -- the Blue Mountains, even Sydney, and definitely any thoughts on the Cairns-based week of our trip, including places to stay, companies to explore the reef, itineraries, etc.

Thank you!
caterinajones is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2009, 08:45 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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By the way October 5 is a Monday in Australia this year. ;-)

I am sure you'll get good info on the islands from those who like to inhabit them.

While it is possible for you to do day trips to the Atherton Tablelands I suggest that you spend some of your time there. This is the area to see wildlife and to hike. With your late arrival and early departure it does not fit easily into the beginning or end so could lead to your splitting your Cairns time. Say arrive in Cairns, spend 6th and 7th on the reef, island or on a pontoon.
8th and 9th Drive up to the Atherton Tablelands and explore the area, basing your self in Yungaburra see for a range of accommodation options. While there take a nocturnal tour, to see animals you will not easily find yourself.
10th drive up to Mossman Gorge and take a Daintree cruise or cross the river and visit the Discovery Centre. Back to Carins via the scenic coast road for an early flight out. Acacia Court on the Esplanade is a little old but in a great location, right on the Esplanade, within walking distance of the night markets for even an old timer like me, and close to the airport. They have a pool and in the evenings a seafood smorgasbord which is heavily patronised by locals.
Saltuarius is offline  
Sep 4th, 2009, 04:09 PM
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Your stay in Cairns etc is school holiday time so will be quite busy.

Wee stayed in Cairns 4 nights and Port Douglas 5 nights same time last year. I must say we were pleasantly surprised with how much we like Cairns lost to see and do. We did a day trip to the outer reef with Ocean Freedom with both snorkelling and diving and we had a great day excellent crew not too big a boat and beautiful warm water and most amazing fish and coral viewing. Also did the Kuranda train and skyline trip a great day beautiful scenery. Ate delicious seafood along the esplanade etc.

We also enjoyed our stay in Port Douglas much smaller than Cairns but easy to get around. We had a car and did another day trip to the reef different location - also great. Drove to Mossman Gorge, beautiful walk. Went to the Daintree did a river cruise and discovery centre. Easily filled up our days. Great big old white pub on the corner for a meal and a drink.

On the Sydney side of things make sure you spend some time on the Harbour and around Circular Quay and the Rocks area. You can get a day transport pass that gives you unlimted travel and trains buses and ferries great value (about Aus$17)
aussie_10 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2009, 05:44 PM
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Caterina, the only nearby island with vaguely affordable resort accommodation is Green Island, about an hour from Cairns. Fitzroy Island a bit closer, about 45mins, however, its new resort has gone into receivership, no-one seems to know when it will re-open. On Fitzroy, at the moment, there is nowhere to buy food and drink so if contemplating a day trip there maybe for sea kayaking or hiking, you will need to bring your own.

Green Island does attract a lot of daytrippers, but crowds have gone by about 4pm, when all is peaceful and its really rather lovely. But generally better snorkelling and diving on outer reef, and once you're on Green there's a limited choice of boats to take you to outer reef, they leave from wharf in Cairns city.

Oodles of accommodation in Cairns, check for specials, Cairns airport is only about 10 minutes at the most from town, about a $20 taxi fare.
pat_woolford is offline  
Sep 7th, 2009, 01:05 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Right now we're leaning toward either heading down to Mission Beach/Dunk Island for a few days or Green Island. Does anyone have any recommendations or opinions between these two? Then we are planning to head to Port Douglas for the remainder of our days up north so that we have easy access to both the rainforests and the reef (and Mossman Gorge/Daintree/etc.), depending upon people's interests. Are we missing anything by skipping Cairns altogether? From my research, Port Douglas seems more our speed, but I'd be interested in people's opinions.

Thanks again.
caterinajones is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 03:38 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Mission Beach/Dunk Is gives more to do than Green Is. On your way from there to Port Douglas go via the Atherton Tablelands. It is barely any longer and you will have done part of the coast trip on the way down and will do the rest when you return the car. This way you can do all or part of the Waterfall Curcuit, visit Out of the Whey, Lake Eacham, Granite Gorge and a coffee or fruit wine place or two.

Of course you miss out on things when you do not go somewhere but that's life.
Saltuarius is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 04:11 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,116
I don't think you're missing you are missing much leaving Cairns out of your itinerary, except as a place to land and take off from. I agree with Saltuarius - would omit Green Island and go somewhere else (like Dunk/MB) instead, given the limited time you have. One place that hasn't been mentioned is Undara, an hour or so beyond the Atherton Tablelands. Not only are the lava tubes amazing to see, but there are a number of walks you can do. And since it is fairly open savannah country, it is easy to spot all the wildlife ('roos, meus, etc) that lives there. Highly recommended.
RalphR is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 08:40 AM
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Okay, so, having read all of the information on Green Island, I am now thinking that we may actually just skip the whole island idea, and instead spend our six fully days just around the Cairns area -- Palm Cove, Port Douglas, Daintree, and hopefully to the Atherton Tablelands (and perhaps Undara now) for a night. It seems like there will be plenty to do with that. Are we missing out on something by not doing Mission Beach / Dunk, or are the beaches up by Palm Cove, Port Douglas, Daintree, etc. sufficiently beautiful as to make a trip to Mission/Dunk unnecessary?

Also, if we do it this way, how would people break up the time? One of us is getting scuba-certified, and so I imagine will want to spend 3 days out on the water. I've been thinking Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Port Douglas, Thursday night up in Daintree, and then Friday night in Atherton. Does that seem like a good plan to people?

And, do people suggest that we make reservations for accommodations ahead of time given the school holiday? Or will it be possible to just play it by ear and figure it out as we go (leaving us with more flexibility if we end up loving some place, or being ready to move on from the reef sooner, etc.).

Thanks again for all your help with this - I greatly appreciate it!
caterinajones is offline  
Sep 9th, 2009, 12:14 AM
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Looks like a workable plan to me.
Saltuarius is offline  
Jan 31st, 2010, 09:53 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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Hi - I am wondering how your trip turned out? I am debating between an island resort, Cairns, or Port Douglas for April 2010. After reading this, I am leaning towards just staying in Port Douglas (we only have 3 nts) and taking a day trip to the reef and renting a car to explore Daintree. Would we be missing out on the reef if we don't do more than that? Any advice on that plan? Is there an upscale 4 or 5 star beach resort you would recommend in PD? Would you suggest all-inclusive or is it better to use the rental car to get around for meals? Thanks for this thread!
bmcc is offline  
Feb 16th, 2010, 03:26 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 112
To dont' need a beach resort in PD, it's a gorgeous little town with plenty of nice places to stay and they are all close to 4 mile beach.
Vivid01 is offline  

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