Wintering up North
01 Jul 2002
Queensland is Australia's sunshine state - which seems odd when the entire country is almost constantly bathed in warm sunshine anyway, but there you go. Blessed with a long coastline, QL stretches from the backpacker resorts near Byron Bay on the border with New South Wales all the way up into the tropics at the mangrove swamps of the Top End. After seeing friends we knew living in Sydney, a few days or warmer temperatures were called for - it was barely 20C in NSW after all - so we hopped on a Qantas flight and after a few hours ended up in Northern Queensland's de facto capital, Cairns.
The first thing that hit us was the heat - at only 9am it belted you like a sluggish wave the moment the aeroplane door opened. We took a minibus into the city to find our hostel, and collapsed for the rest of the afternoon by the murky pool. When the temperature had cooled enough (and this was winter) we emerged and wandered into town for a few beers. Large groups of seabirds roosting in the trees made negotiating the pavements tricky, and much quicker than usual. Although maybe that was the beer calling.
The next day we took a drive up North to Port Douglas, a fairly posh-looking resort town with a classical Australian beach. Kilometres of white sand, backed by swaying palm trees, and warm water with all kinds of deadly creatures lurking to end our holiday on a painful note. After a bit of lounging around, we got back in the hired 4WD and set off for a nature sanctuary for some bonding with a few kangaroos and suchlike.
Over the next couple of days, we escaped the big city of Cairns (which in reality seems tiny), and drove a looong way south via Townsville to Airlie Beach. This backpacker haven was full of bars with drinks offers and drunken Brits - so we felt right at home. The real reason for going was what could be found offshore - the Whitsunday Islands. A long relaxed boat trip the next day was stunning, Whitehaven Beach in particular being exactly what I would call a tropical paradise. I'm far from a beach person, but after a few minutes there I didn't want to leave.
Sadly we had to, and a quick stop on busier Hamilton Island was scant consolation as we zoomed back to Airlie Beach and managed to remember where our 4WD was parked. We drove back up to Cairns past kilometres of sugar cane fields, many of them burning aftera recent harvest. Large grey smoke clouds tried their best to dampen our moods, but thinking about those stunning beaches made the trip home fly by.
Locations Visited: Sydney , Cairns , Port Douglas , Cairns , Townsville , Airlie Beach , Townsville , Cairns , Sydney