Australia. The country where almost everyone dreams of visiting. At least, I do. When I had the chance to spend a summer there in 2010, I grabbed that chance right away and it was all I expected. Australia is grand in all senses of the word.
It is almost the opposite of the Netherlands. It’s big, there are relatively few people living there and the animals are all pretty dangerous (okay, that’s exaggerated, but you have to watch out!) I went to the north of Australia, the tropical part of the country. Because, ah yes, on the other side of the equator, north equals warm and south equals cold. In the month that I stayed there, I stayed in the famous resort of Port Douglas, which is a village rather than a town. In the Australian winter it is very crowded here by tourists from the south of Australia who want to escape the cold.
The largest city near Port Douglas, and the city where I arrived in Australia, was Cairns. Cairns is a medium-sized city with about 145,000 inhabitants where everything feels open and welcome. There is almost no high rise which gives it a village feel and yet there is a lot to do. The surrounding villages and towns (and surrounding can sometimes be an hour away) for many social services to Cairns. Such as the cinema, large retail chains, the hospital and many other things. It is a cozy town with many shops and restaurants, where many backpackers arrive before they travel to the north of Australia. You will therefore meet many people of different nationalities here.
Cairns has its own airport where, despite being a small airport, millions of passengers arrive every year. Cairns is, due to its facilities and location, the perfect base for ‘The Great Barrier Reef’ and the tropical north with Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest. One of the attractions of Cairns is ‘The Lagoon’, which is located on the promenade. This is built because the beach of Cairns is not suitable for sunbathing and swimming. The Lagoon is actually a large swimming pool that runs across the edge of sea. It has a large lawn all around where you can lie down to catch some rays.
Port Douglas is undoubtedly the most popular holiday destination in the Tropical North of Queensland. Normally Port Douglas has more than 3000 inhabitants, but in the period June-September this number can double by the number of tourists staying in the small town. And that is understandable. Port (as the locals call it) is an idyllic place ‘straight out of paradise’. The popular Four Mile Beach is wide and long, as the name suggests and starts north along the village and stretches a long way towards the south. When the weather is perfect for the beach, there are lifeguards on the lookout. In the Australian winter it is best to swim here. The so-called deadly (!) Box jellyfish swim in the hot water in the summer, just like crocodiles, although measures are taken for this. At the stretch of beach adjacent to the village itself, nets are placed so that you can swim safely in the demarcated part.
Port Douglas has many restaurants, both luxurious and average, but it is equally cozy. There are plenty of facilities, such as a large shopping center and a supermarket. Port is therefore, and partly due to the climate, known as a backpacker’s paradise. There are many accommodations. Also, the port of the town is very popular. There are many private boats and there is much to see and to do. I myself left the port on a catamaran for a day trip of snorkeling at The Low Isles in The Great Barrier Reef. There are several boats that depart from Port Douglas to The Great Barrier Reef.
One of the most beautiful attractions in Port is the Wildlife Habitat. This is a small zoo where you can entertain yourself all day between the animals. You will find here mainly animals that you only find in Australia.
It is open every day of the year, except for Christmas, between 8 and 5 o’clock. Entrance costs 33 Aus. Dollars (about 21 euros or 24 USD).
Daintree Rainforest is located north of Mossman and Cairns and is the largest rainforest on the Australian continent. It stretches over 12,000 km2 and runs largely along the sea. The most special thing about the rainforest, however, is how enormously overgrown it is. It is always moist and warm so that every millimeter is almost overgrown.
The roads can be covered during the rainy season, so if you are going to explore with a car, you should have one that can withstand water and currents.
On the way from Mossman you will undoubtedly arrive at the Daintree River where you can cross with a ferry for free.
As you might expect, you can encounter a lot of animals in the rainforest, such as snakes, different species of birds and amphibians. But what I found so special about the rainforest were the wild cassowaries. These animals are very similar to ostriches and emus and are related to them. On the road you will encounter many warning signs for these crossing animals.
In the Daintree Rainforest there are regular stops along the way where you can rest and walk around in the forest. Fortunately, you can not get lost, because here you can enjoy beautiful walks on the so-called ‘boardwalks’. These wooden roads make their way through the rainforest where you pass signs along with information about the forest and its origins and it’s inhabitants. Some parts were given back to the native people of Australia: The Aborgines. They are free to walk off the paths, as we are not. Mostly because the specific land has a special meaning for them and their traditions and/or beliefs.
A popular stop in the rainforest is Cape Tribulation. This headland has a large beach and a bay. The cape was christened “Cape Adversity” by James Cook in 1770 because his ship got stuck close by. It is in this area that I myself ran into a wild cassowary. Luckily I was high above the beast on the boardwalk, as they can still be quite aggressive. The boardwalk at Cape Tribulation is one of the most beautiful I’ve walked in the rainforest. In the end you will find a lookout over the beach, where you are still quite high.
If you want to have a visit to the rainforest more organized and smaller, you can go to the nearby Mossman Gorge in Mossman. Here you can take a hike by following a route through the woods, which will fill up a whole afternoon. Along the way you will encounter many other people who walk around, including streams, rocks, waterfalls, suspension bridges and gigantic trees. While walking, you will find enough information signs about the area and especially the Aborigines and their traditions.
Tropical North Queensland is only a fraction of the beautiful vast country that Australia is. Even the described above is only a small part of what can be done in the Cairns and Port Douglas area. It is highly recommended to take a look there when you are in Australia or Queensland. For me, it was an unforgettable experience and one to cherish forever.
Have you ever been to Australia? Where did you go and how did you like it?