Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart

25th Jun 2014
Photo of Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart 1/6 by Ryan And Ron
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
Photo of Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart 2/6 by Ryan And Ron
Photo of Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart 3/6 by Ryan And Ron
Palm Cove Beach
Photo of Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart 4/6 by Ryan And Ron
Rainforest Interpretation Center
Photo of Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart 5/6 by Ryan And Ron
Rainforest Skyrail Railway
Photo of Short Retreat On The Coast: Cairns & Hobart 6/6 by Ryan And Ron
Beach Bliss in Cairns

The shuttle was promptly there to get us at 7:50 am, but like at home, there were others to collect before heading to the airport. We were flying Virgin Blue, a subdivision of Virgin Airlines from England, owned and operated by Richard Branson. They were most efficient in checking us in, surprisingly, with the exceptionally long lines, we had our boarding passes in fifteen minutes. They board by having the front rows board in the front of the plane and the rest from the back. By 10:00 am, we were on the runway. Food and drinks are available for purchase at slightly inflated prices, but not much more than in the shops. The flight was three hours, but Cairns is one hour earlier, so we gained an hour.

As soon as we collected our luggage, we called Boyz on the Beach, where we are booked. Bob was there within five minutes to transport us to the place. A bit of a diversion here. Think about the name of the place we are staying and picture it in your mind. Boyz on the Beach...Now, I knew it was a gay place. Okay, their place is lovely, the pool is exactly like the photo. All around the pool are lush plants of the tropical kind, both naturally planted and landscaped. They are more than hospitable and generous with their time. One major point for them is that they have free WiFi connections. 

Cairns immediately reminded me of an East coast city, circa 1970s. Only a couple of buildings look like they were built long ago, while the others look like they were built without the aid of an architect's imagination. There is not much of a city there; the streets were fairly empty of tourists. The central business district is just about three long streets made up of restaurants, souvenir shops, cafés, and of course, hotels and one casino. Here and there is a mall or shopping plaza interspersed with the other stores. We walked up one street and down the other, checking out everything, lest we miss some hidden treasure. 

Stopping for a coffee, we thought we had picked a prime location with outside seating. However, when we asked for an ashtray for the outside table we were informed that there is no smoking outside anywhere in Queensland. Queensland, the state we are currently in restricts smoking within four meters of the opening of any food serving establishment. Perhaps this is the reason why there are so few people eating in these places. Making it stricter, you cannot smoke in any area that is covered either, which includes awnings; most of the stores have metal awnings that span the entire block. In order to smoke, you have to stand in the curb and on a corner like a pariah. This explained the congregation of people at the curbs and corners of the streets, puffing away until they finished and then went back to the store or restaurant they came from.

One section of the business district has all of the Asian oriented stores and businesses that range from travel agents to souvenir shops that specifically cater to the Japanese and Korean tourists with all of their signs in both languages. Business must be poor is the city. There were a number of empty store fronts with for sale or for rent signs posted in windows.

As we walked the streets, we saw this fascinating tree that had hundreds of branches coming from the trunk rooting into the ground. We found it was a type of fig tree called a strangler fig. A sign on the tree caught my attention and thinking it was an explanation of the tree, it was a request to inform the authorities if anyone spots a flying fox bat baby that has fallen to the ground. Included in the warning was not to touch it as they carry a virus fatal to humans. When I looked up, there were hundreds of bats hanging in the tree. All of the squawking we assumed was coming from birds was in actuality coming from the bats hanging around. Although daylight, they were busy flying around, spreading their wings, and most likely fighting for territory. We thought better of staying under the tree for too long fearing bat pooh bombs.

Our host had suggested we walk toward where the beach should be, but explained that Cairns does not have a beach, but a mud land. With the waters out, there is very little sand, but a large mud area, so the city built a pool for the locals to swim. It is splendidly designed so that it starts as a fountain working its way into a full fledged pool. Boasting a full 43,000 square feet, each area of this salt water pool is clearly marked with the depth and one point is deep enough to dive into. Huge starfish sculptures elevated into the air on poles are fountains pouring water into the pools. There is park area all around for sunbathing, plus ingeniously, the city installed permanent grills, in series of three that can be started with the push of a button, so people can barbecue and then eat at the picnic tables spread through the area. It is so completely user friendly, but no smoking anywhere in the area.

Cairns may be small and the area may seem like one suburban resort after another, but this area is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites are side by side: the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest. The rainforest in Daintree is 110 million years old.

Another day, another tour. Today we set out for the Rainforest Skyrail Cableway and Kuranda Railway. Once again, Andrew drove us to the resort to catch our shuttle, but then ran back home to transport all of the others to the airport. We will be the only guests for the rest of our stay. After boarding it took about fifteen minutes to reach the Red Peak station, the highest point on the cableway at 545 meters or 1,788 feet high, where you get out and explore the rainforest at this point along boardwalks. Umbrellas are provided for those who did not think to bring one. A guide met us and offered us a free walking tour as he pointed out a number of trees and facts about them and this area of the rainforest in general. He was quite impressive with his knowledge. After he completed his tour, we were free to roam the area before boarding another gondola to the next section.
Photo of Rainforest Skyrail Mid-Station, Kennedy Highway, Cairns, Queensland, Australia by Ryan And Ron
In another fifteen minutes of hovering over this incredible site of millions of trees and plants, we arrived at the Barron Falls Station where again we were able to walk around a boardwalk to see and read about various plants and trees. At this station is the Rainforest Interpretation Center where there are a number of displays on the rainforest and its inhabitants both animal and vegetative. We learned that Australia's rainforests are the oldest continually surviving rainforests one earth, dating back 120 million years. This rainforest occupies 900,000 hectares. Australia's rainforests have 2,800 plant species, of which 380 are considered threatened. Seven hundred of them are not found anywhere else in the world. Also calling the rainforest home is the Southern Carrowary, the largest flightless bird of Australia, two types of tree kangaroos, the primitive Musky Rat kangaroo, the largest butterfly of the continent, the Cairns Birdwing. There are three lookouts that provide a great view of Barron Gorge and Falls. We spent a good deal of time wandering here, before boarding another gondola for the balance of the journey.
Photo of Rainforest Interpretation Center, Barron Falls Station, Cairns by Ryan And Ron
At the end, we disembarked in the village of Kuranda. Very touristy, it is souvenir shops and restaurants galore. We had train tickets for the railroad going back down at 3:30, the last train of the day. There are only two of them and the earlier one is at 2:00. We went to the butterfly sanctuary to spend some time. We hesitated at the $16.00 entry fee per person, but once in, realized it was well worth the money. There are over 2,000 butterflies of various species at any given time. After ten minutes in we were offered a free guided tour. Our guide explained the details of half a dozen different breeds of butterflies, their life stages, their sex life, colorations, and so on. The amount of information was incredible, but the beauty of the Ulysses butterfly with its vibrant blue wings outshone anything she had to say. Two of them landed on her chest. She was wearing a white t-shirt with a Ulysses butterfly on it. There is also a large green species that I cannot recall the name of that was an incredible emerald green. At the end of the tour in the butterfly area, she took us into the museum to show us butterflies of the world. Mother nature is quite the artist. Some had wings that when opened looked like snake heads to thwart their enemies.
Photo of Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Rob Veivers Drive, Kuranda, Queensland, Australia by Ryan And Ron
Our ride lasted for almost thirty minutes, before we saw resorts on one side and beach on the other. This was Palm Cove, all three blocks of it. Well, it may actually, be a few more, but none of the others are of interest to anyone other than those living there. The first thing we did was walk the beach, looking for any seashells and just relaxing to the rhythm of the shallow ocean waves as they softly broke on the shoreline. Pristine sand stretched for miles; the cleanliness of it was incredible impressive. Not only was no human litter, there was barely any seas litter, either. The sand was void of shells, few fragments of driftwood, no seaweed, and no remnants from the ocean left as souvenirs. This only made it more challenging to find a shell or some memento take away as a remembrance. I found one shell, so I won the game over the sea. Ron found two.
Photo of Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia by Ryan And Ron
The best bet was the shuttle at $25.00 per person with a return. It was sitting outside the door, there were only 8 others and Hobart is supposed to be small, so did not take too long for us to be dropped off at Customs House Hotel. Coincidentally, it is also a pub hotel, which we did not have a clue about. We had to check in at the pub, reception was closed by our arrival at 7:30 pm. The bar staff was pleasant and quickly got us settled.
Photo of Customs House Hotel, Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia by Ryan And Ron
As we drove into the city, I noticed there was not much open. This looks like a sleepy little city. Our room is extravagantly large with a sizable bathroom. We went downstairs to question the bar staff about restaurants and other than suggesting their own, told us to the left and right on the street out the door there are plenty of choices. We are directly across the street from the harbor and across the street in the other direction is a lovely Parliament park. We walked in one direction and found nothing open, turned around and went the other way. A few blocks away is the Salamanca Square, where there are a number of restaurants and pubs. Checking out menus, we found that prices here are even higher than Sydney.
Photo of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia by Ryan And Ron