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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Lastly, we went canoeing at Lake Tinaroo. The lake was beautiful and peaceful, with only a few other boats on it. It was actually quite tiring to canoe around the lake, but we had a lot of fun. It was ‘mostly’ an even share of the rowing!
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.
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.
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.
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…