Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

During last year’s Easter holiday, I took my son to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. It was our first time visiting Tropical North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. It was also our first domestic travel since the pandemic started, making it all the more memorable.

Day 1: Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

We flew in to Cairns in the afternoon and went straight to check in to our hotel. I booked a 4 nights stay at Crystalbrook Riley, a five-star luxury resort. It was a really nice hotel with a stunning outdoor pool area. Check out some of the photos!

Once settled at the hotel, we went out for a walk to the Esplanade Lagoon and took a hotel guest bike out for a ride.

The lagoon is located in the foreshore of the Trinity harbour front, and has sandy shores and timber decking surrounding a 4,800 square metre salt water swimming pool. It was a lovely stroll in tropical weather.

Then it was time for dinner. Unsurprisingly, we went to the restaurant in the hotel on the first night. The restaurant is called Paper Crane and they offer modern Asian fusion cuisine including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese inspired dishes. I think we ordered too much food… as usual.

After dinner, we went for an evening swim in the beautiful pool. It was so warm and quiet (when my son was not shouting that is).

Day 2: Green Island

It was a day for the Green Island Eco Adventure Excursion! We actually booked this with our hotel reception the day prior to the tour and it was included as part of the hotel package. The excursion included return ferry transfers, up to 7 hours on Green Island, and a choice of snorkel equipment hire or Glass Bottom Boat tour (we went for both).

Green Island is a small coral cay located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and is 27km offshore from Cairns. It has several coral/sand beaches with the interior predominantly rainforest, and is one of the most popular destinations on the Great Barrier Reef.

What a day and what an experience! The view of the Reef was absolutely breathtakingly stunning!

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see much of the rainforest but we enjoyed the snorkelling and the glass bottom boat.

Tip: If you go to the island during peak season, be mindful that there will be a long queue and a long wait to get food.

After a busy few hours on the island, it was time to head back to Cairns on the 45 minutes ferry ride. Once back at the hotel, it was straight to dinner at Paper Crane again!

Day 3: Cairns City and The Pier

Our original plan for day 3 was to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, however, due to torrential rain on the day, we decided to just stay in Cairns.

We walked around the city, had lunch at Dundee’s Restaurant at the Cairns Aquarium, and booked our tickets to the aquarium while there too.

The restaurant features a large tank (the largest tank within a restaurant in Australia) – a stunning 70,000 litre saltwater marine aquarium filled with colourful fish of the Great Barrier Reef… and sharks! It was a shark tank!

Tank in Dundee's Restaurant at The Cairns Aquarium

Dinner was at the Vitalia’s Italian Restaurant located at the waterfront of The Pier Cairns. The restaurant is rated one of the top 15 in Tripadvisor. I ordered their signature dish – the Cicatielli Irpini – pasta with porcini and mixed mushroom with red wine and truffle sauce. It was amazing!

Day 4: Cairns Aquarium

So… the torrential rain continued on day 4. Luckily the Cairns Aquarium (which we had planned to visit on the day anyway) was just a few minutes walk from our hotel. We spent the day at the aquarium, and saw Nemo and his friends.

Dinner on day 4 was at Tha Fish – another top 5 restaurant in Cairns. We ordered the Black Salted Pork Belly and Tiger Prawn Red Curry (for me!), their famous Fish and Chips, and a Mango Cheesecake.

And… that pretty much wrapped up our trip. We flew back the next day and bought a sea turtle soft toy for my son to keep as a souvenir.

That was an amazing trip and we are planning to go back to the Great Barrier Reef to do more snorkelling later in the year. Maybe the Whitsundays?

Until next time… sweet travels!

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