Part 4: Cairns And A Trip Up The Coast To Port Douglas

Intro: Off Peak To Australia On A Sweet Spot USAir Award
Part 1: Getting To Sydney The Long Way
Part 2: Stunning Sydney And A Climb To The Top Of The Harbour Bridge
Part 3: Exploring The Outback
Part 4: Cairns And A Trip Up The Coast To Port Douglas
Part 5: Beautiful Tasmania
Part 6: Melbourne And The Ride Home On United Global First


One of the items on my bucket list is a visit to The Great Barrier Reef.  So a trip to Cairns was a no brainer.  The plan was to spend three days in in the beach town, pick up a rental car take a drive up the coast to Port Douglas, a small resort town about an hour north of Cairns, and finish up with a day trip through Daintree Rainforest.

I booked the Holiday Inn Cairns for its great location and fabulous off -peak pricing.  For just under $100 a night we’d get an ocean view room (thanks to my IHG platinum status) and access to self service laundry facilities, nice to have after a dusty trip to the outback.  Aside from an ultra compact and awkwardly designed bathroom, it didn’t disappoint.

Sunrise From The Balcony At The Holiday Inn Cairns

We spent the first day exploring the charming city, a nice beach town, though smaller than I had expected.  The weather was sunny and warm.

We decided to take a day trip to Kuranda, a small artsy town up in the mountains and in the middle of a rainforest.  We opted for a trip that would get take us their via the Kuranda Scenic Railway, and return through the rainforest on a gondola via the skyrail cableway.

On The Train To Kuranda

The scenery was beautiful and we passed several scenic areas and waterfalls.


The town was small but charming, and after some shopping and lunch, made our way to catch our gondola ride through the rain forest and back down to Cairns.

The Interesting Lunch Menu
Scenic Gondola Ride Back Down The Mountain

Our final day in Cairns, it didn’t just rain, it poured.  Since we were headed out to Port Douglas the following morning, we decided to wait on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef until we got there, hoping the weather would improve.  We picked up the rental car and started the trip up the coast.

Biblical Rain Storm In Cairns

Getting used to driving on the left side of the road takes a while, but aside from initiating windshield wipers instead of turn signals, came fairly easily.  We made the one hour drive up the coast to resort town Port Douglas, stopping along the way for lunch.

With no hotel chains in the area to redeem points, we opted to wait until we arrived to find a place to stay.  We settled on a centrally located budget-ish hotel called The Port Douglas Hotel which had just undergone renovation.  There were plenty of luxury options, but given that we wouldn’t be in the room much, would have been a waste.

We got settled, wandered around the cute town and beach area, had lunch,  and even though the weather hadn’t improved, made a reservation for a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef for our last day, hoping for the best.  On the agenda the following day was a drive further up the coast and through Daintree National Park and the beautiful rain forest.

It was still a little soggy, but we got pretty lucky and didn’t encounter too much rain.  The first stop was at Mossman Gorge to do a quick hike.  It was beautiful and the weather thankfully held.


Hiking Up Mossman Gorge

To get further into the rain forest, we had to take a car ferry across a river.  It was old school, with cables propelling it back and forth across.  No option to swim this time!

Warning Sign At Ferry Crossing
Old School Cable Car Ferry To Get Across The River

There were also black sand beaches with more critter warnings.


The drive was lush and beautiful.  A great way to spend the day.

Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road In Daintree Rain Forest

We made our way back to Port Douglas, hoping that our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef would still be on for the following day.  Sadly, it stormed all night and did end up getting cancelled.  Guess I’ll have to go back!

After a final day shopping and exploring Port Douglas, we headed back to Cairns to catch our Virgin Australia flight to Tasmania.

NEXT – Part 5:  Beautiful Tasmania


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