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Monday, July 15, 2013

Winter Holidays - Far North Queensland

July brought us the end of term 2 and another 2 week holiday. This time we decided to fly north east to Cairns, QLD and make our way south down past the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, the Sunshine Coast and maybe a day in the Gold Coast before flying back out of Brisbane.

Since we flew out at 6:00 it was 10:00 pm before we landed at Cairns airport, got our rental car and found our holiday park. It was late and we were tired, but great customer service makes it all worth it, we rolled into the Crystal Cascades Big4 and taped to the door was an envelope with a map to our cabin, the lights were on and beds were made.

When the sun came up the next morning, imagine our surprise waking up to the beautiful rainforest and mountains right behind our cabin. 

This part of north Queensland is also big horse country, and there were also a couple of critters that hung out behind our cabin. This dog would wait for our car to pull in after we'd been out and then bark until Hannah got out of the car and came over to pat her. That child is like the pied piper!

After admiring the view and getting some shopping for supplies and groceries out of the way, we headed out and hiked up to the Crystal Cascades waterfalls.

They small right now, but in the rainy season they grow to almost triple this size.

It's all fresh water and there are several spots were you can climb down to the water where it's calmer and have a swim. That is if you're brave enough to get in the cold water like these crazy fishes!

When you're this far north, you of course have to go and see the rainforest! We climbed aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway through the world heritage listed rainforest across the Barron Gorge and up to the village of Kuranda.

The amazing Barron Falls
 At the top of the mountain is the lovely village of Kuranda and its original railway station from 1915.

Kuranda is a village built for tourists, so there are no shortage of attractions. Scott and I struck up a deal with the kids that so as long as we got to go to the markets in the afternoon, we would do what ever the kids chose first.

First up, the butterfly sanctuary.

Followed by Birdworld and a well earned drink. 

The markets in Kuranda are a truly bohemian adventure.

There are artists, musicians and different shops around each twist and turn of the market in the rainforest.

We got up the mountain riding the train, and to change it up we decided to ride the sky rail down. This is a gondola cable car that goes down over the rainforest canopy on it's way down.

North Queensland is croc country.  So we just had to check them out.  Hartleys Crocodiles is a crocodile farm and wildlife park that is known for being heavily in involved in the preservation of Australia's crocodiles.

We took a boat tour around their lagoon where they fed one of them right beside us...these things are huge! If you'd asked me at home if I would take my kids on a boat ride where they hang a chicken leg on the end of a pole off the side of the boat...I'm not sure I would have said yes...but when in croc country....

And then there was this guy. He's crazy enough to play with them!

Here's a couple of videos for those of you who can get them to play... I do apologize in advance I reckon I don't have much of a future in cinematography :)

There were still a few hours of daylight to enjoy after the crocodiles so we decided to take the opportunity to drive another half hour up the coast to the town of Port Douglas.  It is an amazing place surrounded by both ocean and rainforest.  We had only a few hours to walk the boardwalk and check out the shops before the sunset.  But it was a place we would definitely like to spend more time.

And then the time had finally come to explore the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is the largest world heritage area, world's largest coral reef system

There were lots of options for how to get out to the reef and different lengths of tours, so we chose one that came well recommended by the tour desk at our resort.  We got up early and headed into the Cairns waterfront to board a huge ferry that would take us on a 90 minute ride out to a pontoon on the reef.

The pontoon was well set up with space for up to 200 people to use as a base for the day. There were wetsuits for everyone, tables for lunch, a sun deck to warm up on and a huge platform to make getting into the water easier. There was also a glass bottom boat and a semi-submersible boat that you could take tours on farther our on the reef.

The water was cold, so wetsuits were the order of the day, as was sunning ourselves on the top deck afterwards. 

This is Wally. He's a Maori Wrasse and he's huge! But he's also really friendly, a couple of times each day he swims right up and on to the swim platform where the snorkelers are getting ready to go in the water to visit. And then he swims with the snorkelers and lets you pat him. This huge fish is on all the posters for Reef Magic and the highlight for the kids was to actually see him and pat him.

And if you're feeling like the ferry ride just wasn't up to your standards, you could always take the helicopter back to the mainland...for a small fee of course!

After a long day of sun, wind and saltwater, a little rest and relaxation was on the schedule until our
next exciting stop.

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