Gold Coast and Cairns, and a little bit of Brisbane

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Early in the morning of my third day in Australia, I boarded a plane headed for Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. According to Wikipedia, it's the sixth most populous city in Australia, and the most populous non-capital city in Australia. Gold Coast is home to Surfers Paradise.

From the airport, however, we drove directly to Brisbane for lunch. We meant to drive up to the Mount Coot-tha lookout and also to a park (I love parks), but our GPS wasn't cooperating and we ended up just hanging out at the Queen Street Mall for lunch.

Happy non-Chinese food! (Even though it doesn't look all that happy here.)

On prices, Australia is more expensive than the U.S., even more expensive than New York City. I can't remember the exact price of this entree, but it was in the teens, likely the upper teens. I've noticed that, in Sydney at least, the lunch prices are on the same scale as dinner entree prices in Manhattan. Dinner entrees can be in the 30s at a (not particularly upscale) sit-down restaurant. However, you can also get away with a meal for about $10 (as I did at the Cairns airport). Coffee here is about equivalent to U.S. Starbucks prices, so $3.25-$4.50 for a regular-sized cup. Oddly enough, I've found that an Americano will cost pretty much the same (if not the same) as a latte or a cappuccino or any of those "fancier" drinks.

After lunch in Brisbane, we headed for Gold Coast, about an hour's drive away. Here are various photos from our hotel room:

Surfers Paradise

After a night in Gold Coast (which was eerily empty, but I didn't mind) and a tummy full of Wahoo's Fish Tacos (nowhere near as good as the ones in the U.S.), we were off to Cairns in the morning. We nearly missed the flight (got to the airport 20 minutes before departure, which is unheard of in the U.S. ... I mean, you wouldn't even make it past security in 20 minutes, but we somehow flew from the car rental drop-off point through the terminal right up to boarding, and we weren't the last passengers to board? CRAZY!) and contemplated driving from Brisbane to Cairns, which my friend estimated to take 10 hours. Nope. More like 20 hours (over 1,000 miles).

Cairns is sort of a resort area in Queensland. It's sort of a landing/start-off point for cruises out to the Great Barrier Reef, which was the biggest reason I wanted to go. It was a 2-hour bus ride from the Cairns Airport to Port Douglas, where we were staying. 

Our little bungalow

Had dinner in Port Douglas ... my first absolutely delicious meal in Australia, which consisted of a lot of "prawns." I'm not a big (or not even a little) fan of shrimp or scallops, but everything was paired together so well that it was just delicious anyway.

Prawn cocktail with avocado, apple and red onions

Prawn and scallop risotto ... this. was. SO. good.

My friend's grilled barramundi and chips (fries) ... also very tender and tasty

The next morning, we were picked up by Quicksilver Cruises for our trip to the port. Upon arriving to the ferry/cruise ship, we were told that it was going to be a very, very rocky ride and they were giving out ginger nausea preventing tablets, and selling these strawberry-flavored chewable tablets. The lady said the chewable tablets were much more effective, so we each took one ... my first-ever anti-nausea tablet. Must've worked like a charm, because aside from not being able to walk a straight line on the boat, I didn't even feel remotely sick as I watched the poor little girl sitting across the table from me projectile vomit. Sorry, TMI.

On board the boat, I spoke to an American marine biologist named John who convinced me to take a guided snorkel with him. (Solo snorkeling within a confined area came with the cruise trip.) So I handed over another $50 and later met up with him and the rest of the group (my friend did not join in on the snorkeling adventure). On went the wetsuit and another rubbery layer, the fin feet, the goggles. We were taught to spit into our goggles and rinse them in order to keep the goggles from fogging up. Then we set off.

Although I'd felt how rocky the Pacific Ocean had been while on the boat, I hadn't thought much of how this would translate to a little person trying to swim across it. After swimming for about 5 minutes, I'd swallowed my share of (extra salty!) salt water and made my way over to a buoy and asked the lifeguard to PLEASE bring me a noodle so I didn't have to struggle against the waves. I missed about 15 minutes of the 45-minute tour waiting for this noodle, but it was such a lifesaver when it finally arrived, that bright orange thing.

After that, all I had to contend with was my foggy goggles. It was so surreal, sticking my face into the water and seeing what I've seen in so many nature videos played during Oceanography and Geology classes in college ... and I didn't even have to scuba dive down to them; here they were, floating up to me! I saw beautiful tropical fish, coral (none of them were nearly as inspiring as you'd think, like the translucent and semi-glow in the dark types? no), shellfish, and a sea turtle looked a little miffed as he (or she) swam up towards me, nearly colliding into me. It was so, so serene underneath the water's surface.

Obviously I didn't take any photos (floating was difficult enough), but it was definitely a great experience, if not a little traumatizing. (I admit I've had a nightmare about snorkeling since!)

Afterwards, my friend and I returned to Port Douglas for dinner, and then the next day was spent exploring Cairns City. But not before having a buffet breakfast at the hotel, where I finally got to try Vegemite. Yay.

In Cairns, it was raining, so we perused a local mall and then took a walk around the esplanade for a little while.

The flora of Northeastern Australia

Nando's for lunch ... reminds me of London and, oddly, One Direction

A chai tea latte popsicle from a place called Gelacchio ... it tasted funny, like soap

Overall, I wasn't terribly impressed with Cairns or Port Douglas, but the snorkeling, that's something I won't soon forget. Great Barrier Reef, check!

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  1. Sounds like you had a great fun adventure! Content and Clicks are fabulous. Love following along on the blog and living vicariously through you! Thank you for sharing such a nice post of the Gold Coast and Cairns. Keep it up! Cheers...

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