Good to Know About Australia

Impossible to sum up Australia, but some things worked for us and others didn’t. Here are a few tips based on our experience over six months.

All my $ figures in this post refer to Australian dollars, currently about US$.70=AU$1

New Brighton, NSW

Airbnb: We stayed in eight different Airbnb properties in Australia that ranged from passable to extremely lovely and comfortable. Most were on the excellent end of the range. Airbnb is increasingly commercial, meaning that you do not meet the host, just let yourself in with a keycode. Properties are often very clean, which is nice, but they sometimes lack personality, and the wall decoration consists of beige/white paint and mirrors. We try hard to stay in places that are owned and operated by the same person, preferably their only Airbnb property. That seems to yield the best results in terms of atmosphere. Still, in two cases we found the owner started with a single rental and was busy adding others. All our rentals were legal, though it is becoming necessary to check the rules for major cities, as property owners aren’t always forthcoming about the legality of their rental if there is a gray area.

Car Rental: We rented a car in each place we stayed. Cars can only be rented for 28 days so occasionally we had to call in toward the end of the month and add a day or two. We never found an agency that made us come in to the office for this. We rented from a wide variety of companies, Avis, Hertz, Budget, and others. We don’t have an auto rental loyalty card of any kind. Most of the time it did not cost extra, or very little, to add me as the second driver. When it cost hundreds of dollars, I didn’t drive.

Drive on the left: I’d still recommend that you do what we did and take a driving lesson before your first time driving on the left. We found it useful, and though we have driven on the left most of the past two years, we still have to pay attention.

Driving in Australia: Perhaps it is greater use of speed cameras, or the effects of aging on reaction time, or the difficulty of remembering how much parking time we paid for, but we got the occasional traffic ticket in Australia. These come by mail about three months after the fact, so it is impossible to contest them, or even to remember the circumstances. Traffic fines are big business, too. Fines are high, and visitors who plan to drive should budget about $200/month for possible traffic tickets. Generally, drivers in Australia don’t speed, and don’t often pass unless there is a dedicated passing lane. Driving takes time and patience.

People tell jokes about the need to avoid hitting slow-moving koalas and echidnas, or faster moving wallabies and kangaroos. And look out for the gasket-chewing parrots and cockatoos! We avoided driving at nightfall after seeing many, many dead animals on the side of the road in Tasmania during January, our first month in Australia. We never saw as much roadkill again, but the thought of hitting a biggish wallaby was enough to keep us indoors at sunrise and sunset when they are most active.

Food: Coffee is brewed to be strong in Australia. Even if you order a latte, you may have to go back and ask for extra milk.

Zentveld’s coffee farm, NSW

We ate lots and lots of Australian lamb, and it was delicious.

Did you know Australia grows cacao and coffee in the tropical areas? Try locally grown coffee and chocolate if you see it. Northern markets also carry locally grown macadamia nuts. Try some of the native fruits and herbs, like finger limes, bush lemons, lilly-pilly, and lemon myrtle. We tried to shop at local farmers markets as often as possible. It was easy to find when and where online.

Health/Travel Insurance: We purchased travel insurance for each of our flights to/from/in Australia. Fortunately, we never had to use it. We did not purchase any additional health insurance because most policies do not cover pre-existing conditions and that’s usually what needs treating while on the road. Jonathan saw a physician to renew his prescriptions that we could not get easily from the US. The office did not charge him for phone follow-ups when one medication became unavailable and he needed a prescription for a replacement. He was able to get his prescriptions filled anywhere in the country for about the same cost as his copay for medications in the US. I saw the “rock stars” of Australian retina specialists by getting referrals from each doctor to the next. My treatment was excellent and paying “full price” in Australia was about 1/3 more than my copay after insurance in the US. (see my other blog: Macular

People: We found Australians to be the most friendly people on earth. It was easy to strike up a conversation or ask directions. In situations that might be uncomfortable in the US, like finding people living in your backyard (see Sydney), we ended up with new friends.

Quokkas at the bus stop

Public transportation/Parking costs: Public transport is available in the large cities. We used it effectively in Melbourne, where we were close to both train and tram lines. In Sydney, we were on a bus line, and the buses were much slower and usually behind schedule. Fares ran about $6 each way. Driving into the city center anywhere in Australia usually involves heavy traffic. Downtown parking in Melbourne and Sydney is expensive ($16/hr). There is often a fee to park at public beaches, up to $4/hour, though the fee is usually capped after four hours.

Shopping: We found lots of markets in Australia. The big cities all have large downtown market areas, though many of these are focused on tourist shopping, not household shopping. Others mix food with craft items. Farmers markets, where food is the central theme, tend to fall on weekday mornings (see Food, above). Though prices are usually higher than those of grocery stores, they make an enjoyable visit.

Telephone: We used Optus. A $10 SIM card and a $30 per month plan (Epic Data plan) gave us lots of data and all the phone minutes and messages we could use. By setting up automatic recharge we were given a few minutes of “extras” which included international minutes to make an occasional call back to the US. This was handy for contacting places that wouldn’t respond to email, like doctors offices.



Australia: Looking Back

At the end of six months in Australia there is a lot to look back on. Our experiences here have been excellent. We’ve met lovely people, had all kinds of adventures, and saw beautiful land and sea. I have such mixed feelings. There’s a pain in my heart for all that we are leaving behind, while I know that this isn’t a permanent place for me.

We did an excellent job of following the seasons in Australia. Starting in Tasmania in January and working our way north through the summer, we ended up in northern Australia in May and June as Darwin and Cairns started to cool down from the intense heat of northern summers. We’ve been rewarded with fine weather everywhere. It was hot in Melbourne, but we lived near the beach and I got to swim often–just what I like. Six months later, New Brighton has cooled off over the past two weeks and the solstice. We are leaving just before I run out of enough layers to keep warm.

Though we stayed six months and saw a lot, would I do anything differently if I were to visit again? Hmmm… I don’t think I’d do anything differently if I were making my first visit all over again, but if I were to return to Australia, here are a few things I would try and include in my further travels.

Our schedule kept us in good weather, but that doesn’t seem to match up with some of Australia’s best known festivals. I might try harder to catch at least one of these on another trip:

  • Tasmania: MONA FOMA, Launceston, January; or Dark MOFO, Hobart June 14-23, 2019  These are two festivals put on by MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. Always controversial, each festival includes quirky and interesting displays.
  • Brisbane Art and Design Festival, May 10-26, 2019
  • Sydney Vivid Festival, May 24-June 15, 2019  Remarkable here is that images are projected on the “sails” that make up the roof of the Opera House, and on structures all over the city
  • Opal festival in either Coober Pedy, June 21-22, 2019; or Lightning Ridge, July 24-27, 2019  There are so many quirks to the world of opal hunting that three days among the miners and purveyors should yield some crazy good people-watching.
  • Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, July 10-14, 2019
  • Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney (Bondi) Oct.24-Nov. 10, 2019; Perth (Cottesloe) Mar. 6-23, 2020

I’d also like to take about six months and drive the length of western Australia from Albany on the south to Arnhem Land on the north. Every inch of the coast has interesting rock formations, reefs, fish, towns, and wineries, too. I’d like to see more.

The far north would be on my list for another visit. I’d take a tour into Kakadu National Park and then on to Tiwi Island, and into Arnhem Land. There is aboriginal rock art from millennia past in some of these places alongside the homes of aboriginal people who still live in a unique way trying to maintain their culture in the face of the contemporary world.

The far north on the east end of Australia would also make my list. I’d visit the Cape York Peninsula and the islands of the Torres Strait that are in the process of being swamped by rising sea level. Near the tip of Cape York I’d like to see palm cockatoos before they die out like so many other exotic species.

My wish list includes extreme points of the Australian continent. Otherwise, there aren’t any must-see destinations left on my list. I enjoyed all the places we went, and I recognize there are many more places that we missed. We drove by only a few of Australia’s “Big Things,” and there are many, many more.

Australia’s Big Things (Wikipedia)

That pretty much sums up Australia. No matter where you’ve been, there’s more to see. You can stay in one place and find everything you want, or you can keep moving and see something new around every corner. Whether I return to Australia in the future or this is my one visit, it has been super fabulous wonderful and I will always be happy we were here.

Auckland in Three Meals

We stopped in Auckland on our way back to the US. We didn’t need to, there are direct flights from Brisbane to the US, but we saved a mint, so decided to do it. We arrived on Monday afternoon and left on Wednesday morning, deciding to take a brief culinary tour during our stay.

We began with dinner at Masu, a Japanese restaurant in the downtown area (Federal St.). The decor is comfortable, with wooden tables. Diagonal beams hung overhead suggest the roof of a house. The menu includes sushi, kitchen specialties, and a robata grill. We chose items from each section, with black cod cooked on the grill as our main dish. It was all delicious. As I am a dessert lover, I don’t mean to diminish the buttery sushi, the crsipy, spicy calamari, or clams steamed in buttery broth, but what really stood out was dessert. When is the last time you had a truly delicious dessert at an Asian restaurant? Masu really delivered in this category. The chocolate hazelnut pudding arrived in a small wooden box, with umeshu ice cream (made with Japanese plum liqueur). A server sprinkled green tea powder on top of the baked pudding at the table. Spoon out hot pudding with a crispy bit of topping, followed by a bite of ice cream–what flavor! I scraped out the corners of my little box, glad there wasn’t more, because I would have eaten it.

We took Uber back and forth from the city to our hotel by the airport, and the process went smoothly once I learned not to order a ride until I was in an easy-to-find location.

On Tuesday, we began with lunch at the Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar, once again arriving in the downtown area via Uber. There are no reservations at the Depot, but we were seated immediately, right around noon. Taking advantage of our location, we ordered a dozen raw tuatua clams, followed by a small plate of charcuterie, then venison cheek on creamy polenta. The charcuterie was both delicious and a bit unusual, including rabbit rillettes, cherry relish, wild pork salami, and locally made bresaola, served with fig and fennel seed toast. Best of all were little batons of head cheese that were rolled in crumbs and deep-fried; hot and crispy on the outside with melting meaty flavor on the inside.

The day was overcast, and we opted for a walk to the Auckland Art Gallery. There was Maori art, art of the western canon, and a surprisingly engaging exhibit, “Guerrilla Girls: Reinventing the ‘F’ Word – Feminism!.” The Guerrilla Girls are a collective of artists who point out inequality where they see it. They make posters to plaster in public places with titles like “Do Women Have to Be Naked to Get Into the Met. Museum?” The poster lists statistics about the representation of women in the Met’s collection, where it turns out there are far more female nudes on the walls than work of any kind by female artists.

By this time, we were getting museum fatigue and took a break for tea. Refreshed enough to continue, we headed for the harbor, strolling the pedestrian shopping precinct in central Auckland. These few blocks are full of international brands, with the occasional tourist souvenir shop butting in. We window shopped our way to the water. Two huge wharves have been converted to hotel and restaurant venues. We found our dinner spot, Euro, out on Princes Wharf. Our reservation was early, since we’d be getting up at 4 am to head for the airport. Our third restaurant meal was as interesting and as delicious as the previous ones. Jonathan couldn’t resist a few local oysters, and the two first courses were excellent. We started with “scorched” steak tartare, a delicious nearly raw chopped beef covered in a cloud of tiny kumara (yam) chips. Next came duck ham, slivers of ham draped over a pastry tube of delicate duck liver mousse. We cleaned up every bit of it. Jonathan went on to a main dish of crispy beef cheek while I held out for dessert. When I asked our waiter what to choose, he suggested he bring me something, which turned out to be half portions of two different desserts, cheesecake cigars with ginger ice cream followed by tapioca with pineapple curd, panna cotta cream and so that it wouldn’t resemble pudding, shards of white chocolate and dried pineapple fanning out of the top like the sails of a ship.

Our culinary visit to Auckland showed there is lots of fresh shellfish and well prepared seafood. There is also excellent meat and specialty products from local producers. Add some New Zealand wine and you have menus that focus on New Zealand products with delicious results. We don’t usually eat out, so this visit was a real treat, and we were more than satisfied with each of our stops.



The Other Giant’s Causeway: Fingal Head, NSW

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Fingal Head, NSW

A year ago we visited Giant’s Causeway, a fantastic natural formation of basalt pillars in Northern Ireland. The rock’s regular shape is very intriguing, unique in all the world–except it isn’t unique. There is another formation of columnar basalt just like Giant’s Causeway at Fingal Head, near Tweed Heads, NSW. Once we heard about the rocks at Fingal Head, we had to visit.

The formations are identical in geological terms, formed by cooling volcanic rock. At Fingal Head the columns are larger and coarser, which makes them too heavy to be quarried and used for building. Columns at Giant’s Causeway were cut into blocks and used to build nearby Dunluce Castle.

This patch of distinctive basalt pillars is not as large as the version in Northern Ireland, but it had far fewer visitors on the day we were there.

When we visited Giant’s Causeway people were spread over the site like ants at a picnic.

There is a low spot separating Fingal Head from the shore. It was just past low tide, and as I considered crossing onto the heap of rock, a wave crashed into the low spot from both directions at the same time!

We spent quite a while looking at the sun on the rock formation, and doing some whale watching. There was a lot of spouting but not much jumping on this gorgeous sunny day.

We strolled the beach north of Fingal Head, where small boulders cover much of the beach and show that pieces of the rock columns break off and get rolled in the surf before piling up on land. In among the rocks we began to find beach glass, more than anywhere else we’ve been on the east coast of Australia. We picked our way along the water for quite a while, then had a picnic lunch overlooking the shore, where a dozen different kinds of birds swooped down to see whether we’d like to feed them some crumbs. We didn’t feed them, but got a good last look at interesting Australian birds, just about our last before we leave for New Zealand and home in a couple of days.

Dodging Showers at Tweed Regional Gallery

The recent rains are supposedly abating and we planned an indoor/outdoor day to hedge our bets. First stop was the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre in Murwillumbah, a 25 minute drive from our house. Not large, but very lively, this young institution aims to be a hub for cultural activity and seems to be succeeding. There were three rotating exhibits that included intriguing work by a still life artist, Dean Home, and paintings by an Aboriginal artist based in this region, Digby Moran.

The main event is the studio and works of Margaret Olley, an Australian artist known for her still life paintings.

There was also a group of works that show a regional landmark, Mt. Warning, painted by several different people over a span of about 100 years. (The banner painting is yet another view of Mt. Warning by Thomas Dean).

The permanent exhibit includes Margaret Olley’s studio, brought lock, stock, and paintbrushes from her home in Sydney. All the materials were photographed in place, catalogued, measured, described, assessed from a conservation standpoint, moved hundreds of kilometers from Sydney to Murwillumbah, stored until the building that is now the gallery was completed, and then reinstalled. I would have loved to be a volunteer helping with that project!

There’s also an artist in residence, and contributions by former artists-in-residence to current exhibits. A good cafe, gift shop, and engaged docents that we observed in action guiding a tour, the Tweed Regional Gallery was impressive as an organization. We had our picnic at one of the outdoor tables looking over the rolling landscape of greater Murwillumbah. I did say this was only the first stop. The weather stayed bright and sunny so we stopped at the Moobal National Park along the road home and went for a walk in the rainforest. There are only a few remnants of coastal rainforest in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. If you find a patch, the walking is lovely and cool, and there are a few birds. We had our moment in nature before heading home, without a drop falling on us.

Winter Solstice in New Brighton

Welcome to this post on our current home in New Brighton, New South Wales. This is also my 500th post on   (Where does the time go?) Thank you for reading and joining me on our travels. I hope you’ll keep coming back.

It’s been just over five years since we retired and set out to see the world, and we’ve met our goal many times over. The places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and our adventures! It’s been amazing over and over again. Just this morning we went birdwatching with Bird Buddies, a group based in the area around Byron Bay, NSW. Everyone was welcoming and friendly, and helped us see the birds that may be common to them, but were new to us. We had a wonderful morning ending with a tea break where the list of all birds seen was compiled, and general conversation shared. It doesn’t get better than that.

New Brighton is our last stop before returning to the US, and we know we’ll miss Australia. Our home here is situated between Gold Coast (the sixth largest city in Australia–who knew?) and Byron Bay, two hours drive south of Brisbane. Our street is bounded by an estuary on one side, and the beach on the other, with birds twittering all around us, yet we are five minutes from a shopping center. This house is small and comfortable, with objects from our hosts’ extensive travels all around us (India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco, and many other destinations). We have lunch on our picnic table overlooking the water when we’re home. Australian magpies and pied butcherbirds stop by to beg. We’ve had to shoo them out of the house. Our neighbor says they come in and stand in front of her fridge waiting for snacks!

There’s wildlife in the neighborhood, too. Flying foxes hang from the trees across the estuary during the day. They unfurl and flap into the night about a half hour after sunset. Apparently, pythons cross the walkway to the beach regularly, though we haven’t seen any. Near the Byron Lighthouse, and at Hastings Point, we’ve see whales breaching and blowing puffs of mist into the air. There are signs along the roads for koala crossings, though none have crossed in front of us–yet.

There are excellent farmer’s markets during the week. We go to the New Brighton farmer’s market down the street from our house on Tuesdays. The last apples of the season appeared this week, right on the solstice. It’s the shortest day of the year here in Australia, but the coldest it gets all winter in this region is about 60°F. during the day, sunny and beautiful. Except when it rains.

On Friday, we went to check out the farmer’s market in Mullumbimby, a few miles from here. It is a larger than our local market and was full of delicious things. There was a stall selling exotic fruit. We tasted Brazilian cherries, a tiny, tart fruit the color of a tomato, and we bought hybrid limes, a cross between a finger lime and a regular type.

The bread in this region has been excellent. We bought a loaf of seedy, whole wheat sourdough that will make delicious toast. The patisserie stall yielded croissants and eclairs for a mid-morning snack.

We’ve been to weekend markets, too, with vendors selling crafts of all kinds, snacks, and all kinds of food. There is always live music and lots of children running around while parents try to shop while chatting with their friends.

We’ve bought macadamia nuts, finger lime jam, meat, cheese, baguettes, dukka (nutty, seedy dipping mix), stuffed animals, pillow covers, and colored prints of tropical birds.

We’ve been on walks through the rainforest, along the beach, and through the woods. We’ve taken some of the walks in a book here at the house, “Byron Trails: 50 walking adventures in Byron Bay and beyond” (by Mairead Cleary). Well never run out of things to do, and won’t even come close to taking all of the possible walks. Each time we set out I think briefly about the impending end of our stay in Australia. Then I get caught up in the day, the sunshine, the woods, and the ocean.







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.



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