Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tropical Queensland

It's going to sound like complaining, but I'm really not. We had a nice weekend, but it wasn't what I expected. In my mind we were going to have more of a resort vacation than what we actually had. If I remove the unmet expectations, we did have a good weekend.

We went to the state of Queensland which is in Northern Australia and much more tropical than Sydney. We stayed in the outskirts of the city of Cairns (pronounced "cans"). As one of my co-workers told me after I returned, "it's a bit dodgy." It's a beach community, but not a resort community. There are restaurants and shops and it's ok to spend a day, but you don't need to be there too long.

On the positive side, there is a great playground on the Esplanade called Muddy's. It didn't take long to find out why it's called Muddy's. There are water hoses in sand pits in the toddler section. What could be more fun to a 2 year old than getting the dirt and sand wet and making mud pies? Nothing! There are also water sprayers to run through which are great for the hot weather. The locals had their kids dressed in swim suits, but we are tourists and were totally unprepared. SPie got a few bumps and bruises from the zip line - her forehead had a nasty meeting with the pole attached to the seat when she hit the end of the line and her nose was bleeding after she ran into the seat in her excitement to get on it. None of this takes away from the slides, swings, and ropes which she had a great time climbing all over.

On the negative side, the Esplanade area of Cairns doesn't really have a beach. There is a long boardwalk along the water, but there is a good mile or two of muddy, grassy, somewhat swampy area between the boardwalk and where the ocean really starts. I'm guessing this is where the Muddy's playground got it's name. There was a man made public swimming "lagoon" with sand which looked great, but it's not the same as a natural sandy beach.

If I were to do it again, I would stay in Port Douglas or Palm Cove or one of the other local resort destinations.

On Saturday we did a tour that included a ride on a scenic railway up into the Kurunda rainforest village and a skyrail tram back down. The train is lovely and SPie enjoyed it. I was looking forward to the the skyrail tram and it didn't disappoint. I appreciate that the skyrail is a way to view the forest without doing any damage to the area and the views are great. The tram makes two stops on the way down the mountain where you have the option of getting off and walking along boardwalk paths to lookout spots to a waterfall and the forest valley.

If I had more time, I would have also liked to hike one of the Daintree trails. The tour we did was good and I recommend it, but it definitely wasn't an "up close and personal" type of experience.

Between the railway up and the skyrail down, we explored the village of Kurunda. It's a pleasant area with shops, restaurants and a few attractions. The shops seemed to be slightly less expensive or comparable in prices to other areas we've been to. There were more artist shops than we've seen in other areas which is a nice relief from the general tourist wares. There was one clothing and gift store called Serendiva full of bright colorful woven items from Sri Lanka. The fabrics were beautiful. I was "this close" to buying a nice bright beach bag, but I just couldn't justify the price when I already have so many bags - including a few I don't use.

Our day-tour included a visit to three attractions in the village; a butterfly sanctuary, a bird sanctuary and a koala garden. The butterfly sanctuary was great. SPie kept putting her hand out for one to land on her. When two butterflies did land on her she froze, then shook them off. They landed on her head and her shirt and I think that just wasn't what she expected. On her hand would be ok, but on her head wasn't as great.

I'm not a big fan of birds, but I thought the Birdworld was pretty good. If you like birds, it was probably great.

The Koala Garden had some cool crocs and lizards and an adorable baby koala. When babies are young, they sit on their mother's backs. The care taker was telling us this little baby had just started wandering on her own last week. She was pulling at the tree leaves, but wasn't old enough to eat them. She was really adorable, but she stayed hidden in the leaves, so we couldn't get a good picture of her. There were a few kangaroos and wallabies that could be hand fed, but they weren't hungry or active. It was very hot, so they were probably smart to just relax in the shade.

At the hotel we went swimming late in the day on Friday and after sunset on Saturday night. SPie was more into it Saturday night and even jumped underwater - not once, but twice! Both times I was right there to lift her out. Her fearlessness is good, but it also makes me a little nervous at times.

We ended the weekend by visiting the Botanic Gardens in the morning before our flight home. SPie was on the lookout for butterflies everywhere, so the butterfly sanctuary definitely made an impression on her.

One thing we didn't do was an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. The tours were long and not exactly toddler friendly, so we decided it was best to skip it.

It was a good weekend, but I think this is one area we'll need to revisit when SPie is a little older (or maybe when she's away at summer camp). Maybe by then I'll be in need of a new beach bag too.

Butterfly on SPie's shirt (It was a coincidence that she was wearing a butterfly shirt!)
View from the skyrail.
View down - you can see the cables that the skyrail rides on:
The scenic railway train:


CakeHead said...

Oh how fun. Are you originally from the US? I lived abroad for a year when I was in the military and I get very nostalgic. I think it can really change your view of the world when you get outside of your own pocket. And I think it's great for kids, too!

Piecake said...

Hi Cakehead - Thanks for the comment.
Yes, we are from the US originally. I completely agree - it's good to change things up now and then! It's interesting to see how other countries view the US as well.