Fifteen Days in Australia
A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea
- United Global First Class Lounges – Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles
- United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney
- Sydney: Days One and Two (Arrival, Walking Tour, Manly Beach, and Darling Harbour)
- Sydney: Days Three and Four (Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, Bondi Beach, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, Woolloomooloo, and the Sydney Fish Market)
- New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbour
- Virgin Australia Economy Class Sydney to Brisbane to Cairns
- An Evening in Cairns and a Flight to Lizard Island, AU
- Spirit of Freedom Live-aboard Dive Trip (4-night Coral Sea and GBR)
- Qantas Economy and Business Class Cairns to Sydney to Melbourne
- Two Days in Melbourne and the Park Hyatt Melbourne
- United Global First Class Sydney to San Francisco
An Evening in Cairns
Upon arrival from Brisbane, we collected our luggage at baggage claim, and took a short taxi ride to the Holiday Inn Cairns. We checked in and went to the room, which featured a great view of the beach and the Pacific Ocean.
After freshening up, we proceeded to walk around the town of Cairns. The pier and marina were beautiful at sunset. Cairns is one of the common jumping off points for tours of the Great Barrier Reef — and that too was the reason we were there. Cairns is situated on the border of the Daintree Rainforest and the sea, so the vistas are pretty stunning. The downtown area of Cairns was highlighted by the Cairns Esplanade Swimming Lagoon — a freshwater, man-made beach where everyone was swimming at this time due to several of the beaches close to town being somewhat uninhabited due “Stinger Season” — meaning there were box jellyfish offshore — amongst the most venomous creatures in the world.
We strolled around the marina and the Esplanade and eventually had dinner at Cafe Thailand, a Thai place right near the Cairns Esplanade. Dinner was tasty, but the service was pretty slow. One of the creepy things about dinner was the abundance of bats, known as the “flying foxes” that reside in a tree in central Cairns. Every evening, the bats fly throughout Cairns around sunset — it was pretty unnerving coming from someone who isn’t all that comfortable with bats. After dinner and dodging bats, we headed back to the Holiday Inn for some sleep.
Flying from Cairns to Lizard Island on Hinterland Aviation
We were in Cairns to start our four night dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea aboard the Spirit of Freedom — a live-aboard dive boat based out of Cairns. We selected the four-night Coral Sea itinerary. This particular itinerary started in Lizard Island — an island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef — and ended four days later in Cairns. Included in the trip was a low-level flight from Cairns to Lizard Island — and it was pretty cool.
The Spirit of Freedom representatives picked us up from the Holiday Inn in the early morning of January 2nd and delivered us to the general aviation terminal at Cairns International Airport. The main operator here is Hinterland Aviation — a small, regional and charter airline with operations in northeast Queensland. The Spirit of Freedom chartered two flights to take the twenty-two passengers on the hour-long flight from Cairns to Lizard Island. Our luggage was checked at the bus — and the next time we saw the bags would be on the boat. We were all weighed in the terminal to ensure proper weight and balance. After a fifteen minute wait, we were escorted down to the Tarmac to board our Cessna Grand Caravan. Our plane held ten to twelve passengers and the captain.
We taxied along the runway with great views of the Jetstar 787 and Korean Air 747-400. We took off to the South and immediately turned east and then north, above the Rhapsody of the Seas — the cruise ship we’d watched departing Sydney several days before.
The flight was about as scenic as it gets as we hugged the Queensland coast — rich with rainforest vegetation. We then went off shore across the clear water of the Great Barrier Reef. Eventually, we landed at a small airport on Lizard Island — smack dab in the middle of the GBR. Upon approach to the island, we saw the Spirit of Freedom – our 122-foot home for the next four nights!