Visit to Cairns and Sydney, Australia
On August 2008, we visited Australia (never been there before) for our summer family vacation – except it is winter Down Under! We are used to the cold Canadian winters, the weather was actually very nice, and it was low season with smaller crowds, so it actually was a really good time to visit.
We flew Qantas Air, our route info was the following:
- Tokyo to Cairns (over-night flight)
- Cairns to Sydney
- Sydney to Tokyo
Cairns is located in Queensland on the northern part of Australia – it was warm with temperatures between 15-27C, and lots of sunshine (Queensland is appropriately called the Sunshine State). We took an overnight flight from Tokyo and arrived before dawn, a beautiful morning sunrise greeted us from our hotel balcony. As we were still tired from the long 8 hour flight, we took it easy the first day and just explored Cairns downtown area, including The Esplanade boardwalk and harbor area. For dinner, we cooked Kangaroo meat and ate in our hotel – yum.
Our first adventure in Cairns was scuba-diving and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the world. I have never scuba-dived before so I took an introductory lesson, and made it alive (barely :-). These pictures were taken by a professional photographer (same picture for all of the scuba divers) – much nicer than the ones I took with my cheapo digital camera enclosed in a waterproof pouch.
The Wet Tropics of Queensland UNESCO World Heritage site is an umbrella name for a series of National Parks stretching for 450 km along the north east coast of Queensland from Townsville to Cooktown, bordering the Great Barrier Reef, itself another World Heritage site. We visited two rainforest national parks – Daintree National Park and Barron Gorge National Park. For Daintree, we joined a tour where we saw the Mossman Gorge, experienced a relaxing river cruise, ate Barramundi fish for lunch, and hand fed Kangaroos in the Rainforest Habitat.
For Barron Gorge, we took the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway to the town of Kuranda, where the cablecar rode atop the rainforest providing some spectacular views below. After having lunch at Kuranda, we then took the Kuranda Scenic Railway back to Cairns, a historical railway that also offered great views of the surrounding areas including the Barron Falls.
Sydney is located in New South Wales on the southern part of Australia so it was cooler with temperatures between 7-17C. Our hotel was centrally located, walking distance to Chinatown (where we had several meals), Darling Harbor and Hyde Park.
We were impressed and marveled by Darling Harbor, truly a role model for how a waterfront area should be developed (our Toronto waterfront area looks like a dump in comparison to Darling Harbor). We watched the new Batman movie, Dark Knight, at the LG IMAX Theater in Darling Harbor, which was appropriate since the late Heath Ledger, who played the Joker brilliantly, hails from Perth, Australia.
Of course, a visit to the famous Sydney Opera House (which is also another UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a must. To see inside of the Opera House, you had a take a tour so we signed up for the hour long Essential Tour package. Beside the Sydney Opera House is the Harbor Bridge, where you can climb atop the bridge (which we didn’t do).
We visited several museums including the National Maritime Museum, Powerhouse Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). There was also time for some shopping at Queen Victoria Building (QVB), The Strand, Pitt Street Mall and Paddy’s Market. Finally, a day visit to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, where I got to again feed some Kangas and pet a Koala.
We were in Cairns, when the 2008 Beijing Olympics began on August 8, 2008 (08/08/08) – Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. So we also visited the Sydney Olympic Park.
Australia reminded us of Canada. Both are very large, but with small population densities, very diverse (multi-cultural) and casual (friendly). Surprisingly, we found it more expensive compared to Tokyo, but of course, that could be because we stayed at two of the most popular tourist areas in Australia.
It was a great vacation and we saw many of the key attractions in Australia. We are now back in Tokyo, which we did miss, tired, and had a sushi dinner on our first night back :-). We now return to our regularly scheduled Japan programming (until our next Asian adventure).
PS. More pictures can be found on my Facebook.