Surfers Paradise?

There’s a charming story of a local entrepreneur whose hotel “Surfers Paradise” opened in 1925 and became the engine of local business success along the shore southeast of Brisbane. The owner of the hotel lobbied for several years to have the area renamed Surfers Paradise, and in 1933, the town of that name was born.

Fast forward 86 years. We’ve discovered that opals are a tourist product and local jewelry stores in Australia rarely stock more than a few inexpensive items. When I looked for stores that specialized in opals, the nearest places to us were tourist sites in Surfers Paradise. With the weather drizzly, we went on an expedition.

What a shock. We were stunned, amazed, and flabbergasted. Surfers Paradise is a megalopolis of high-rise hotels and condos. There is nowhere in Surfers Paradise that isn’t built to the sky or under construction. This isn’t a low key surfer’s settlement like Byron Bay, this is Nassau, Waikiki, and Miami Beach. It’s a popular place for beach weekends, shopping, dining, and clubbing. Bachelor and hen parties visit–we followed a group of young men wearing paper crowns and carrying a blow-up doll.

Surfing championships are held at this beach and others along the coast, making a lively summer season. We visited on a gray day in the off season and had to imagine the streets full of vacationers.

We had a nice lunch at Seascape restaurant overlooking the beach and did some opal shopping after that. We returned to our house in New Brighton, looked out over the estuary, and listened to the birds, happy to be living in a much quieter and more rural part of the region.

Moving South


The weather turned colder on our last day in Cairns, accompanied by a notable drop in humidity. That was the end of swimming, and we compounded the effect by moving south, to cooler territory south of Brisbane. The first few days here were gloomy, overcast with rain. The temperature didn’t get to 70 and I had some misgivings about spending several weeks shivering under a drizzly sky.

We may not be swimming but the Black Rocks boarding club was out in force on Sunday.

Fortunately the weather shifted. The days turned sunny, the clouds retreated over the horizon and the temperature now reaches 75 or even a bit higher. This is perfect weather for walking the beach, birdwatching, and visiting the sights. The Great Barrier Reef is no longer offshore so there are waves breaking on the beach and the water is blue again–it was brownish green when the reef was just offshore in Cairns.While we’ve been out walking (not me on the paddleboard) we have seen a few whales leaping as they work their way north along the coast. We also visited the easternmost point of the Australian mainland. Jonathan took a photo for a group of young women who threw themselves into crouching, hand symbols, lots of movement. After that, we felt we had to add something in our own photo.

The shortest day of the year is coming up in less than two weeks. I’ve never lived in a place where the shortest day falls during warm weather. It is strange to have the strongly slanting golden light of late afternoon at 2 pm when it feels like summer. The sun rises around 7 am and sets early, so we have to squeeze more in to the shorter day, or end up driving home in the dark at 5:30 pm. It’s another of the peculiarities of living in Australia compared to the northern hemisphere.

Old and Gold, Brunswick Heads



We happened to arrive in time for the annual community garage sale in nearby Brunswick Heads. The Old and Gold Festival sounded like our kind of event, with lots of rummaging around and maybe a treasure or two as a result.

The people-watching was fabulous, unparalleled by anywhere we’ve been in Australia. This tiny town, just up from the surfing and hipster central of Byron Bay, filled to the brim with all kinds of people, all colors, styles, and interests. I was drawn to listen in on the conversation of a group of four women. All had long, long wavy hair, wore long dresses, ankle boots, and carried huge, HUGE, patterned cloth bags, they were a striking group. Some looked like they were about to tip over, or collapse onto the bundle like a bean bag chair and sit down for a rest. These bags stashed their vintage clothing finds. “I’m just picking up bits and pieces, for shoots, y’know,” said one particularly willowy specimen peering over her sunglasses at the others. Her friends nodded knowingly, and they went on to compare notes on where and what they’d found.

Babies, dogs, dreads, were everywhere. Some people looked stylish, a white jumpsuit with a wide leather belt or flowing skirts with layered vests. At the other extreme some people wore so many layers of multicolored shirts and ponchos they were like walking rainbows. Men wore shirts of Guatemalan cloth, or a bow tie, or a ratty tshirt. Younger women wore long dresses with boots, while a white haired woman wore turquoise hat, scarf and shirt. There was red with green, purple with canary yellow, plaids with stripes, and colors everywhere. There wasn’t even time to acknowledge the super short shorts, and this being Australia, the extensive tattoos on arms and legs of most men and women under the age of 50.

We had a coffee watching the passersby and fell into conversation with a family who live in the area. We talked about travel, favorite places locally, and politics, at which point we dragged ourselves away to think happier thoughts.

We passed my favorite vendor’s stand that incorporated a boat play area.

In the end, Jonathan found some particularly interesting sausage, blue cheese and a delicious fresh baguette, while I scored a pair of Mexican silver earrings at a bargain price. The Old and Gold Festival was a morning well spent.

Amanda and Jim’s Cairns Adventure


Amanda and Jim are just ending their two week visit with us. We’ve packed a lot of new experiences into this short time. It gives you a snapshot of what there is to do in and around Cairns.

Day 1:

Leaving Los Angeles at 11 pm Friday, they arrived in Cairns at noon on Sunday, though it was only about 18 hours later.

Day 2:

Our first visit was the beach, so that Amanda could take up her signature pose, marine biologist looking into tide pools for tiny critters. The rest of us went beach combing, exploring the rocks and sandy beach at Kewarra and Yorkey’s Knob.

Day 3:

Seeing a bit of the rainforest that covers north Queensland was next. We rode the Skyrail aerial tramway, stopping to look out over Barron Gorge, then hopped back on and rode to Kuranda.

Kuranda is a small town of tourist shops and restaurants that makes a pleasant visit. There is also a section of small vendors’ stalls, the Heritage Markets. We returned on the old-fashioned train. Originally built for mining and local transport, it is now solely for tourist use. It’s not a long ride, and the line is flanked by thick forest, steep hillsides, and a curve so tight the wheels screech against the rails.

Day 4:

The Big Event of the visit was our trip to go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. (See my previous post “Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef.”)

Day 5:

On another beach day we continued exploring the ends of Kewarra Beach in the morning and Yorkey’s Knob in the afternoon. We stopped to photograph the field of wallabies that live in a big park in Kewarra Beach.

Day 6:

More exploration of the shore at Trinity Beach.

Day 7:

Yungaburra Markets, the Curtain Fig, and the Great Platypus Hunt. (See my previous post “The Great Platypus Hunt.”)

Day 8:

At the Tanks Art Centre, market stalls are dispersed in parts of the Cairns Botanical Gardens as well as along the paths of the Art Centre. After admiring arts and crafts and buying a few of the food offerings, we went to the Cairns Esplanade for a stroll along the esplanade and lunch at Muddy’s. This area is a wonderful city amenity, with a bike path, walking path, barbecue stations, children’s water park, climbing walls, and a pool facing the shore.

Day 9 and Day 10:

We revisit Kuranda for a last bit of shopping on our way to Cassowary House for an overnight of birdwatching and a raucous after dinner game of Yahtzee in the middle of the rainforest. (See my previous post “Riflebirds at Breakfast.”)

Day 11:

Beach exploration at Redcliffe Point, north of Gatz Balancing Rocks. Amanda found some strange creatures that look like rocks but move when touched. Hermit crabs hid in shells from the tiniest to the largest on the beach.

Day 12:

The advantage of taking the Crocodile Express tour is that it starts from Daintree Village and is good for as many additional one hour tours as you request. After a break for lunch, we took our second Crocodile Express trip on the river from the Daintree Ferry Landing. We saw lots of crocodiles both times, all chubby and uninterested in moving from their muddy sunbathing spots.

Day 13:

Another tour of Kewarra Beach hunting for the flipflop Amanda inadvertently dropped in the ocean, followed by Amanda and Jim  tasting beer at CocoMoco in Clifton Beach.

Day 14:

Trip south of Cairns to Etty Beach to see cassowaries by the roadside and begging at the picnic tables. We’ve now seen cassowaries in two places.

Day 15:

At the Palm Cove Markets Jonathan made friends with the best trained cockatoo we have ever met. Our market visit was followed by a final stroll and swim on Kewarra Beach. We celebrated the end of our visitors visit with dinner at the Paperbark restaurant at the Kewarra Beach Resort, only a short walk from our house.

Day 16:

The Cairns Aquarium displays sea life of north Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef. We spent three hours combing the exhibits and watching the fish–we could have stayed longer. We watched a giant hump head wrasse spit out the squid it was fed for lunch just like a little kid who spits a grape across the room. That’s him in the photo.

From the aquarium, we dropped Amanda and Jim at the Cairns Sheridan Hotel, so they could catch a cab for the short ride to the airport at 4 am for their 5:30 am flight to Brisbane and on to Los Angeles. They’ll be home after a very, very long Day 17 of travel. I am sad to see them go, but we will visit with them in Los Angeles just a month from now.

Summary–Two weeks in Cairns


  • Skyrail to Kuranda
  • Snorkeling Great Barrier Reef
  • Crocodile Express tour
  • Cairns Aquarium


  • We visited four markets in two weeks: Kuranda, Tanks Art Centre, Yungaburra, Palm Cove
  • Market stalls sell crafts, local products, food and drink. A few have fruit and veg stalls. We bought pillow covers (fit in suitcase), gifts, and treats (macadamia nuts grown locally).
  • Markets are held in different places every weekend from May through November. During the wet season there are still some indoor markets, but fewer.


  • Cassowary House
  • Etty Beach (cassowaries)
  • Yungaburra (platypus)
  • Kewarra has several hundred wallabies in Centenary Park, we dropped by to take photos a couple of times.

Beach Exploration:

  • Five days when beaches were the main event, not counting any of the trips already mentioned.
  • Afternoon or sunset visits to nearby beachesIt was a busy two weeks, yet we didn’t have to rush off early other than the day we went out snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. We all had time to put our feet up, swim in the pool, and read, as well as go on lots of explorations.



Riflebirds share Breakfast at Cassowary House



I read about Cassowary House online and it sounded like an unusual place to stay overnight and do some birdwatching. This small, family-run guesthouse just above Kuranda is set in a thick patch of rainforest, with frequent visits from local birds, including a cassowary or two. We’ve seen cassowary in the zoo and animal parks, but visiting Cassowary House would be a chance to see them in the wild, with the added possibility of seeing the Victoria’s Riflebird, an endemic bird of paradise. It can be seen only in this part of tropical North Queensland.

After stopping in Kuranda for a stroll around the shops we missed on our previous visit, we drove up Black Mountain Road keeping an eye out for the sign to Cassowary House. Good thing we did, as the sign is small and almost overgrown with the exuberant tropical vines that grow everywhere. Our cabin was rustic and intriguing, cobbled together of windows and doors from other structures. (Both doors have glass central panels marked “Telephone.”) The terrace at the rear looks over the woods. We’ve learned enough about Australia to pay attention to advice like, “No dinner is served.” I checked with our host, Sue, and she advised us that the fish & chips shop in Kuranda was one of the few restaurant options nearby. Our cabin was equipped with hotplate, microwave, and toaster oven, enough to organize a simple dinner so we chose to shop for supplies in Kuranda. When we arrived at Cassowary House, we could do some birdwatching, watch the sun set into the forest and not have to go out.

As we waited to check in, we heard rustling in the bushes, and out stepped a cassowary. We all froze, then reached for cameras, but by then it had stepped back into the forest, and a baby cassowary took its place! Though both vanished back into the leaves, we saw them both again the next day. The female cassowary is Gertie, and she regularly stops by Cassowary House to snack on cornflakes. The baby is this year’s offspring.

Cassowary hatchlings are cared for by the male, and Gertie seemed faintly annoyed by being followed around by a juvenile. The young bird seemed content to wander the property following its mother, welcome or not.

After dark we heard the catbirds mewing louder than a box of kittens. Though we heard far more birds than we saw, the site was lovely, with trees over 60 ft tall trailing long vines, holding up basket ferns and epiphytes. In the morning, we ate breakfast overlooking the feeding cassowaries and the local brush turkeys (protected but unwanted), while on our level, a black butcherbird, and Victoria’s riflebirds stopped by to gulp down tiny cubes of cheese perched on the railing.

The brownish female riflebirds arrived first along with a young male who began doing the riflebird’s courting display, swirling one wing out, then the other, like a bird trying to do “The Swim.” It was promptly shooed away by the females, but shortly afterward, a male riflebird swooped in. They are dark blue/black, but their tail and a line of feathers around the neck flash bright metallic turquoise in the light. It was a treat to see them. We don’t usually go out of our way to see endemic species though we did enjoy our foray into chasing unusual birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great video of a riflebird doing his dance.

Victoria’s Riflebird dance

(The photos of female and juvenile riflebirds are from the internet.)

The Great Platypus Hunt


Jonathan and I saw a platypus in a darkened display (they are nocturnal) at the Healesville sanctuary outside Melbourne. We thought we had checked off one of those Australia bucket list activities: See a Platypus!!! The platypus was dark on top with a silvery-white belly, leaving a trail of bubbles as it swam across the surface of its pool. We loved it.

Shift gears to Cairns and our chance meeting with wildlife artist Pete Marshall at the Cattana Wetlands.

Pete Marshall wildlife artist

After chatting for a bit, Pete recommended looking for platypus in the creek by Yungaburra, describing the place where you park, go under the bridge and along the creek. It sounded like a good adventure, though we were dubious that we’d see these secretive little animals.

We suggested a platypus hunt to Amanda and Jim, and I found we could combine our search with a visit to the Yungaburra weekend market. We set out at 8 am Saturday–no dawn patrol for this group, and arrived at the Yungaburra Platypus Viewing Platform around 9:30 am. Sure enough, there is a trail along a creek where a sign lets you know there is a resident platypus family. From the bridge across the creek we saw nothing, and the water was cloudy with runoff from recent rains. We moved along the creek, avoiding the muddy patches. After about twenty minutes of watching without success, we decided to visit the market and give it another try later.

An hour or more later, we stowed our loot (veggies, dukkah, macadamia nuts, salami, oyster mushrooms, radishes, potatoes, and pastry) in the trunk and returned to the platypus zone, just a block or two from the park that hosts the market. We set out again, under the bridge and along the creek. Amanda and I tiptoed around a longish stretch of muddy path, squeezing along the edges to avoid sinking. I was staring at the water when Amanda whispered that she saw one! I turned and watched a dark little animal, definitely a platypus, much smaller than I thought from watching nature shows. We watched it dive, expecting it to return to the surface, but it disappeared. After a few more minutes, there was no sign on the surface and we headed back to the others. We told Jonathan and Jim that we’d seen a platypus and they tried to be enthusiastic, but we knew they wished they’d seen the platypus, too.

Right about then, the platypus emerged. For the next ten minutes, platypus dove and swam around the creek. There were three or four platypus swimming around as we watched. They paddled strangely but moved quickly through the water. I’m not sure why the group of platypus in this creek is awake during the day, but we enjoyed their performance.

I never thought I’d see a wild platypus, but there it is. A successful end to the Great Platypus Hunt.


Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef



Floating in the water over coral stacks around 20 feet tall watching a cloud of tiny blue and orange fish darting around my hands, I forget what it took to get here. All I can think of is how mesmerizing this view is, I want to remember it clearly. The sun has been in and out, and when it strikes the water, the fish and the coral are illuminated. Fish are sparks of color on the mossy brown coral.

I enjoy snorkeling, any chance to snorkel is a treat, and we’ve seen some wonderful underwater scenery here and there. For that reason, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR), is an iconic place we’ve decided to visit. There are hundreds of boats that go out to the reef, and many different ways to have a look. Non-swimmers can ride glass-bottom boats or semi-submersible watercraft. Families can visit a large pontoon that provides a place for kids to jump in and splash around. Divers can explore deep places. We chose to go with a group based in Port Douglas, Wavelength, that provides a snorkeling trip to Opal Reef. The company is owned and operated by a marine biologist based in Port Douglas, and all the on-board staff are marine biologists.

We had an early start to a long day, leaving home at 7 am for Port Douglas, arriving before 8 am. With about 40 of us aboard, the boat left port at 8:15 or so, driving out across the water so fast that waves broke against the windows while the boat rocked and pitched. It was impossible to walk across the room without clinging to the rails. During this, the staff gave us orientation briefings and described what we’d be seeing, calm as though these were everyday conditions–I guess they are. The boat finally stopped and anchored, yet we saw nothing around us other than a slight change in the color of the water and breaking waves a few hundred yards away. This was the reef. It’s not like snorkeling around the edge of an island, there’s nothing above the surface.

Amanda and Jim arrived in Australia on Sunday–we saved this adventure for their visit so that Amanda could use her skills as a marine biologist to point things out to us. They were among the first into the water. We suited up and flopped in, taking pool noodles for a little extra support.

Under the water, we could see coral of all kinds. Some has been bleached by warming seas, as much as 40% at the first site we visited. The effect is disconcerting. Dead coral is either white or brilliant, neon colors. Living coral is green and brown. If you visited the Great Barrier Reef twenty years ago, it might make you sad to return.

Our second stop along Opal Reef was more typical of a living reef, with 10% or less dead coral, and impressive outcrops of flat “table” coral. Water currents keep this section a bit cooler than other areas, thus the lacy, flat corals have survived.

At our last stop, we saw stacks of coral. Huge boulders are solid corals that could be thousands of years old. Smaller corals grow along the sides of the oldest corals, and on top of them, and gradually the stacks grow larger and larger. The shapes are wonderfully complex, and thronged by fish from tiny shimmering flecks to big ones longer than 18 inches. Teal green, brown striped, and orange pink parrot fish nibbled the corals, flicking their tails. Some of the colors were very tropical, pink, orange, turquoise, lemon yellow.

While Jonathan and I snorkeled on top, Jim swooped under the surface to take close-ups with his new Go-Pro camera on his wrist. Amanda dove down and up as well.They peeked at the tooth marks the parrot fish leave on the coral, and peered at sea feathers (a type of star fish). I’ve never gotten the hang of diving under the surface and clearing my snorkel when I return to the air. I was happy to watch them.

Most of the photos in this post come from the tour company. We decided to buy the photos from our day on the reef, and they throw in a group of their best reef photos so that eveyone could have a photo of a shark, a “Nemo” fish, and a giant clam. The giant clams were one of the highlights of the trip for me, I didn’t realize there were still enough of them that you could easily see them on the bottom. They are huge, and often a glowing bright blue or purple in the middle, where algae live in a symbiotic relationship with the clam. Our stop was a sort of “clam garden” and we saw quite a few, including some that are so old they’ve been engulfed by coral. One of the crew members swam down to a giant clam and waved her hand about six inches from the opening and it slammed shut! Very fun and creepy, it reminded me of an old cartoon.

We had a glorious day,  a wonderful time, well worth the boat ride and getting up early. We hear a lot about the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, and all that is true. The reef is under immediate threat from warming seas, pollution, dredging, mining, and too many people like us who would like to see the GBR in person. It is a fascinating environment, unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.

Good to Know About Visiting the Great Barrier Reef:

We went with a snorkel-only trip because we knew we didn’t want to Scuba dive, and the focus on a single activity would make a smooth visit. Wavelengths is locally owned by a marine biologist. With one in the family, we’re sympathetic, and were pleased to find the staff really all were marine biologists.


Our visit was May 22, toward the end of “stinger” season, and it was not necessary to wear a lycra suit to prevent stings from tiny jellyfish. (I wore a full suit, head cover, and socks to keep warm.) The water was warm, 26° C (almost 79° F) and that made our day easier because we didn’t have to worry about getting cold right away. High season is June-October. Since we visited before the busiest time of year our boat was almost but not completely full–max. number of passengers is 48, and we had around 40.


We visited at the end of the rainy season, and found it was still rainy on shore. We were concerned that the trip would be canceled and we’d have to rebook. They had promised to call, text, and email if there was a schedule change, and when we heard nothing, off we went, and the trip went out on time. On the reef it was partially overcast, with periods of sun that were very warm (nice). The sun on the water improves visibility, and those moments were the best.

The ride out to the reef was pretty rough. I don’t get seasick, but we bumped quite a bit, probably because going slower would end up taking most of our day going out and back. Some people felt nauseous, but sitting outdoors looking at the horizon seems to settle most stomachs.

When we arrived at our first snorkeling spot on Opal Reef, the water was rough. In fact, this was the roughest water we’ve ever tried snorkeling. It wasn’t a problem, other than occasionally getting some seawater in the snorkel, but you spit or blow it out and keep going. Interesting, though, that the experience of the people who do the trips makes them say, “No Worries,” when on our own we would not go into such choppy water. Once in the water, I rarely gave it another thought. There were a couple of spots where we had to kick and paddle pretty enthusiastically just to stay in place, so we probably got more of a workout than on a calmer day. There were always crew members in the water with the group and crew members keeping watch in case anyone signaled the three things we learned: Help (save me), Turtle (come look) and Shark (come look).


One aspect of the trip we liked was that everyone on the boat worked on all the tour activities. The marine biologists gave safety briefings, doled out coffee and tea, kept things neat, led snorkeling tours, and took photos. We even caught the captain mopping the deck at one of our stops. Everyone pitched in to make a good trip and that was the result. Crew members were well-informed and willing to chat about the weather, the reef, fish identification, whatever questions came up. They were uniformly pleasant and helpful. I’d give Wavelengths high marks as a tour provider.


Our trip was about $250 AU per person. We got ourselves to the landing in Port Douglas, though it was possible to be picked up from hotels in Cairns and Port Douglas. Everything on board was included: tea and coffee before departure and after our first and third stops, lunch at the second stop. There were bottled drinks for sale, and the photos did cost extra ($30 as a download; $45 with a cute Nemo usb), but there weren’t unavoidable added costs.

Election Day Australia


A bonus on our trip has been observing the electoral process first hand in Australia. On April 11, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an election would be held on May 18, 2019. There were 36 days of campaigning.

High marks to Australia on this point. Campaigning was covered every night on the news and by the 30th day everyone had had just about enough of all the candidates. Scandals were uncovered, old tweets forced some candidates out of the race, all the usual campaign mud was slung–but it only consumed six weeks of everyone’s life. The US could learn something from this approach. It’s a much more humane process. It would put a lot of polling and campaigning consultants and companies out of business in the US. Would that be a bad thing?

The overall race was who will become Prime Minister. The incumbent, Scott Morrison of the Liberal Party, came into office in August 2018. The present election is the first time Morrison will be actually running for office as Prime Minister. He has to keep his elected seat as well as making sure his party wins the majority of seats in Australia’s House of Representatives. Employment prior to politics: Department of Tourism. Three things about Morrison:

  • As Minister of Immigration he upheld Australia’s policy that bans any refugee landing on Australia illegally from ever being granted a visa.
  • Under his leadership, the gigantic new Adani coal mine was approved, intended to produce 20 million tons of coal per year starting in 2020.
  • He admires Trump and has political detente with Clive Palmer of the Australia Party (Their slogan: Make Australia Great Again).

The challenger, Bill Shorten of the Labor Party, has been leader of the opposition since 2013, and has held several Cabinet level posts related to labor, finance, and pensions. Employment prior to politics: Labor organizer. Three things about Bill Shorten:

  • He acknowledges the role of women in his election successes and supports LGBTQ rights.
  • In his campaign, he supported action to combat global warming, including reducing greenhouse gases and phasing out the use of coal, a huge Australian export.
  • Another campaign promise was to raise taxes on the wealthy.

The election boiled down to whether people want the status quo or change. Despite many TV commentators and pollsters indicating Shorten would win, he did not. Humans are most comfortable with the status quo, even when they know change is good for them. Australia has mandatory voting, and it is my own opinion that voters who arrived at the polls without much election awareness voted for the status quo. In Australia, you vote for a local candidate, not directly for the Prime Minister. The two major parties have deep historical roots and an undecided, uninformed voter is likely to go with the party they voted for in the previous election, or that their parents voted for. It is not a big surprise that Scott Morrison’s party won, despite what commentators said.

I’m glad the process took only 36 days, though Australians have to live with the outcome for three years, or perhaps less. Elections must be held every three years, but can be called when there is a no-confidence vote on the leadership, which has happened several times during the last decade.



Rainy Day at the Cairns Botanical Garden



Despite on and off drizzle, the Botanical Gardne was at its best. The rain washed all the leaves clean and gave a bit of shine to all the plants.

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Outdoor plantings are complemented by the indoor collection of bromeliads, orchids, and butterflies. We also saw the weirdest mushroom I’ve ever seen. It grows a little lace dress for itself. Very strange indeed. They probably came out during the rain.


Cairns: Tropical North Queensland


Before the plane lands in Cairns you see the new environment. Unlike anywhere else we’ve been in Australia, the forest of north Queensland is dense green. Enough rain falls year round to keep a thick cover of trees and underbrush growing. We thought Darwin would be like this, but even though it is often hotter, Darwin is in seasonally dry tropical forest. There isn’t enough rain in the dry season to keep everything growing. As a consequence the forest around Darwin is thinner, with less underbrush.

Not only is the forest around Cairns dense, it covers coastal mountains so steep that only a few roads cut across into the interior. Though we are well into autumn in the southern hemisphere, the temperature hits 80° F. most days, and we do use the pool in our yard. Two blocks away is Kewarra Beach. On weekends there are lifeguards and the net to keep out box jellyfish. There are reminders about other hazards, as well.

We had a preliminary look at the coast, driving from our base in Kewarra Beach north as far as Wangetti.

Next we went inland to Barron Gorge. There are boardwalks built along the edge of the cliff overlooking the gorge. There isn’t a swimming hole here because the water eventually runs into the power generating station for Cairns. The view is lovely and we saw new birds along the way.

At the far end of the complex is Wright’s Overlook, where you can see Cairns in the distance. We’ll do more exploring across this area now that we’re back on our schedule of staying for a month rather than having to “run off” after a week or two.