Road Trip! Cairns to Brisbane (1,748km)

We were feeling really excited about our road trip, armed with snacks and road trip playlists. We were ready!

Day 1  

We started the day nice and early, leaving Yorkeys Knob at 6.00am.

We arrived at Mission Beach within about two hours and had a gorgeous walk along the beach, which was one of the best we had seen so far on our travels. 

We were gutted we were only there for a short time, which became a popular theme on the road trip, passing so many places we wanted to stop at but not having the time. We enjoyed a nice big breakfast before hitting the road again. 

We made one other stop at a rest stop park area and then continued on to Bowen, where we were staying in a cabin for the night at Queens Beach Tourist Village.

After driving all day, we fancied a walk and went to the beach to try and find somewhere to eat, but didn’t have much luck. So, as we weren’t actually feeling that hungry we decided instead to grab a few bits from Woolworths (a supermarket in Australia) and head back to our place – not the most exciting evening, but we were knackered from travelling for nearly nine hours!

Views from a lookout point we found near where we were staying.

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All in all we covered approximately 566km.

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Again, we hit the road nice and early and didn’t stop until we saw a cafe for lunch near somewhere called Clairview.

After lunch, we kept driving all the way to Rockhampton. We finally arrived in need of somewhere to stretch our legs, and went to Rockingham Botanical Gardens – most places in Australia seem to have a botanical garden we were discovering! It was nice to walk around and we noticed they also had a zoo, which had already closed, so we decided to stop there in the morning before leaving.

We ended the evening with a delicious Chinese meal for dinner. 

This part of the journey was approximately 524km.

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Another early start, but this time to visit Rockhampton Zoo before hitting the road. We really enjoyed wandering around and seeing all the wildlife – chimpanzees, kangaroos, birds, crocodiles, otters…

Before leaving we grabbed breakfast, where we were joined by two cheeky Rainbow Lorikeets trying to steal our food and Lauren’s milkshake. After surrendering the last of her milkshake, the two birds kept taking it in turns to dunk their heads in, with one getting too impatient when it wasn’t his turn and yanking the other one out, which was really funny to watch!

Once we finished breakfast with the birds, we made a quick stop at the Tropic of Capricorn Spire which is a marker along the latitude of the Tropic of Capricorn.

Afterwards, we began making our way to Bargara, which is a seaside town with a wonderful beach we walked along once we arrived. We then had some very tasty fish and chips whilst enjoying the sea breeze and views that evening.

We went back to our hotel in Bargara, which was small with only had a few rooms. The hosts were so nice and another set of people we met originally from the UK, which happened more often than you’d think! The hotel was so homely and cosy and we had a great stay there for two nights.

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We covered 301km on this leg of the journey.

C89635E9-1BED-42D8-8B15-F226AA8EFFD9Day 4

We were super excited about this day, because we were going to visit and explore Lady Elliot Island.

It had been planned soon after our first trip to the Great Barrier Reef and we were not only really excited about swimming on the reef again, but flying over it to the island. 

We arrived at the airport, which was really small and gave our names to be ticked off a sheet and told to wait for the pilot to collect us (no ID check or anything!) – very different to the usual flying experience. There were about 12 people on the flight in total and the plane was tiny.

We set off and into the clouds and within 10 minutes we were flying over the ocean. The view of Lady Elliot Island, as we started to approach, was spectacular.

The island is only 0.45km squared with the runway strip down the middle. It is an eco resort with snorkelling and diving facilities, a reef education centre and gorgeous beach areas.

Firstly, we went out on a glass bottom boat and saw two turtles mating on the surface of the water near the boat, which isn’t something you see everyday. We also saw leopard sharks and black tip reef sharks.

Then the boat was stopped and we had the opportunity to jump in and snorkel, which we obviously did! This was in the ‘Coral Gardens’ area and as the tide was low the amount of fish you could see, and so close to you, was amazing. We set off a bit further away to some deeper areas and managed to swim with two manta rays and quite a few sea turtles. We also caught a school of Big Eye Trevaly, which was breathtaking to see and be so close to.

We had an amazing day snorkelling around – there were so many areas around the island to go to, we didn’t manage to fit them all in!

The day was incredible and we were so glad we booked the experience. The only thing we were disappointed about was not deciding to spend the night on the island, which was an option… maybe at another point! 

Day 5

We had a lovely breakfast with our hosts before leaving and headed straight for Maryborough. 

We walked around a gorgeous park with war memorials around and then ventured further into the old fashioned town.

We spotted a Mary Poppins statue, as the writer P.L. Travers was from Maryborough, which we didn’t realise, presuming the writer was English. We did our best Mary Poppins impressions and then were back on the road for the final leg of our journey. 

Finally, we arrived in Brisbane late that afternoon.

We walked into our apartment and instantly loved it. It was so spacious and it felt homely. We settled in ready to see what Brisbane had to offer over the next month.

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On the final day we covered 357km.

E4527287-79EB-42A9-A490-7E2FA2D5F517Final Thoughts

Something that really surprised us driving was the big, straight open roads, but low maximum speeds, with most being 100km, which is just over 62mph. The fastest roads we found (not very often) were 110km, which is still only just over 68mph.

During our journey we passed many creeks all purposefully named, our favourites: Christmas Creek, which had decorated christmas trees on both sides (beginning to get us into the festive spirit!), and what we thought was a well named, Deacons Creek. A lot of the roads we were driving had wonderful views and we did spot a Cassowary standing at the side of a road and had to slow down for a Monitor Lizard while it made its way across the road, which we luckily spotted in time! There were also trivia questions on the side of the highway, which we thought was an interesting idea, and gave us the chance to learn some random Australian facts that may come in useful at a pub quiz.

Overall a tiring but fun experience, which gave us the opportunity to see a lot of Australia!

Lauren and Daniel’s favourite thing – Lady Elliot Island

 

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Yorkeys Knob and Cairns City, Queensland

Having been in guest houses, hotels and shared accommodation for over a month, we were really happy to have our own place with a living and dining room, kitchen, and garden. 

We were staying at a small beachside town called Yorkeys Knob (we know!). It is called Yorkeys Knob because it was named after an English fisherman called George ‘Yorkey’ Lawson. He lived on a hill called the Knob and remained there developing the area. The locals are now so attached to the name ‘Yorkeys Knob’ that they successfully prevented a developer from advertising a development as being at “Yorkeys Beach”.

They even hold a ‘Festival of the Knob’, every year which has been going since 2004. Each year they crown a King and Queen Knob. The unusual feature of their crowns is they are covered in wooden door knobs and surrounded by shells.  

We spent the first few days in Yorkeys completely chilling out, after what had been such a busy month. We enjoyed time at our ‘home’, actually cooking meals again, which we surprisingly really missed! We also spent lots of time enjoying the beach and having picnics and BBQs on the esplanade, which were five minutes away.

 

Our highlights

Reef Teach

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One evening we headed to Reef Teach in Cairns City – an evening talk given by a Marine Biologist all about the Great Barrier Reef. We really wanted to do this before we visited the reef to be able to learn about it and the marine life we might encounter.

We learnt that the Great Barrier Reef is 2,300km (1,430 miles) in length, and covers an area roughly the size of 70 million football fields. The reef is composed of 3,000 individual coral reefs and approximately 900 islands – amazing!

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We learnt about the highly publicised topic of coral bleaching, and that many media outlets have dramatised figures and facts with some claiming as much as 70% of the reef has been bleached beyond repair. There are many stories that have misrepresented an original scientific source.

To our surprise we also learnt that coral bleaching is a natural way for corals to survive high stress events, that occurs on reefs around the world – a bleached coral is still an alive coral. However, the problem is how often this bleaching is happening as a result of increased sea temperature, due to climate change. As these are happening more frequently than ever the coral is being given less time to recover and adapt, with some ultimately dying. 

Another lesser known problem for the Great Barrier Reef is the Crown of Thorns Starfish. They are coral eating starfish with up to 21 arms. Although a natural part of all reef ecosystems, the high number found on the reef is causing a problem due to the amount of corals they are eating.

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After a short interval, we were given more details about the marine life; specifically, the ‘Great 8’ which are considered by many to be the top things to look out for. The Great 8 are Turtles, Sharks, Whales, Maori Wrasse, Giant Clams, Manta Ray, Potato Cod, and Anemone Fish. We hope to see as many of these as possible while in Australia.  

Finally, we learnt the ‘real’ story of Finding Nemo, which is that if the story was accurate Nemo’s Dad actually would have turned into a female after the Mum died, as Anemones (like many fish) have the ability to change sex. She then would have either eaten her son Nemo or reproduced with him… both scenarios not really Disney material!

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The evening was brilliant – really informative and interesting and it made us both super excited to visit the reef in a few days! 

The Great Barrier Reef

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We set off from Marlin Marina at 8.00am with Reef Experience and began by making the hour and a half journey to the Outer Reef. During this time we were given safety briefings for snorkelling and scuba diving. We also had a talk from a Marine Biologist, which was cool. 

We arrived at our first reef, ‘Norman Reef’ and both headed in for our first dive. After we had both finished diving we had about an hour to snorkel together. During both scuba diving and snorkelling we saw so many incredible coral structures and an abundance of fish! They were everywhere around you that you looked.

There was one very big fish ‘Frank’, a well-known Maori Wrasse, who we were told liked attention and could come over to say hello while diving, which he did!

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After lunch, we headed to our second reef location, ‘Saxon Reef’. Another stunning and healthy coral reef swimming with life.

Some of the fish we could identify from our day were Starfish, Parrot Fish, Codfish, a Giant Clam, Sweetlips Fish, Anemone Fish, Damsel Fish and Trumpet Fish.  

While diving Daniel also saw these little creatures – Christmas Tree Worms, which we knew about courtesy of Reef Teach. They are brightly coloured worms with a spiky crown that pop back into their hiding holes when they feel something around them.

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Being on the Great Barrier Reef was at the top of our bucket lists for Australia and it definitely didn’t disappoint! After experiencing it we left wanting to see more and began to plan our next trip!

The Atherton Tablelands

The Tablelands is a vast area of changing terrains – mountains, rainforest, savannah, and wetlands. It is made up of lots of small towns, waterfalls, gorges, national parks and wildlife areas.

On our first visit there we started by going to Din Din Lookout at Barron Gorge, which gave us a spectacular view of Barron Falls.

We then went to Kuranda – an artsy, aboriginal market town. It was interesting to walk around and see (and hear) someone play the didgeridoo for the first time since being in Australia!

Next we drove to a town called Mareeba and went to a place called Coffee Works, where you could learn about where coffee came from and how it has been developed over the years to what we know today… but more importantly you could enjoy unlimited coffee, tea, liqueur and chocolate! It was lots of fun and we definitely left with caffeine and sugar highs! 

Our second time visiting the Tablelands we ventured further to a place called Millaa Millaa, where we completed the Waterfalls Circuit. This included Millaa Millaa Waterfall, Elinjaa Waterfall and Zillie Waterfall. They were all spectacular and each was very different, with some scary edges.

Before we set off for the next town, we drove up to the Millaa Millaa lookout, which was so high our ears were popping, to witness these amazing views across the Tablelands.

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Yungaburra was the next place we visited. It’s a historic town, which felt like a 1950s western town. The main reason we were there was to go to Peterson Creek and try to spot a wild Platypus. After lots of hunting and waiting we spotted this guy, who came right near us at the riverbank.

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Cairns Botanical Gardens

On another beautiful sunny day, we ventured back to Cairns City to visit the Botanical Gardens. The gardens were well looked after with some lovely and unusual flowers around. We visited a Chinese Friendship Garden which felt traditional and tranquil. A nice way to spend an afternoon, complete with picnic.

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Crystal Cascades

We weren’t sure what to expect with Crystal Cascades but showed up in our swimwear hoping to cool off in the waterfall. We arrived to find a 1.2km walk ahead of us, which lead to an incredible waterfall and swimming area, which we had lots of fun swimming in. So much so, that we decided to go back a few days later.

Final thoughts

Overall we loved Yorkeys Knob. It was great to be a short walk away from the beach and we enjoyed lots of time there and along the esplanade. It was especially great to have a proper BBQ along the beach front.

We liked Cairns as a city and felt like it had a lot of great surrounding areas. We also loved that it was a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Being in the tropics, it was very humid and we were looking forward to some less humid climates making our way down South.

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Daniel and Lauren’s favourite thing – snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef

So that’s it for Cairns and hitting the road for Brisbane…

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