Great Barrier Reef was the primary reason why we decided to visit Australia, although there are numerous reasons to visit Australia including the beaches, outback and it’s wonderful cities – The best time to visit Australia is completely dependent on what you want to do – For beaches and diving – use summer, for outback – use winter. Australia also has a great railway system that goes around the country and it is in my bucket list to travel on that train.
Most of our days in Australia were spent in the city of Cairns, the base camp for any Great Barrier Reef activities and I would highly recommend to spend most of the days here, plus it is a great backpackers town with great restaurants and bars. Keep a day or two as buffer for Great Barrier Reef due to weather – the fundamental pleasure of experiencing reefs is great sunlight and crystal clear waters.
If you do not have a PADI (deep sea diving) certificate then try to get one from your home country or you can also get it from local outfitters with a higher premium before experiencing Great Barrier Reef. Snorkeling is also another option but with limited experience.
Stop 1 – Sydney
Closer you are to the Sydney harbor the more prime location you are in – Everything will be walking distance. We spent 3 full days in Sydney before leaving for Cairns and it was wonderful – Removed the jet lag, visited places in the city and got us acclimatized. Top Things to do in Sydney – Walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, visit the Opera House, Bondi Beach, Blue Mountains. In the evening hangout around Darling Harbour for nice dinner and bars. This will be all walking distance if you stay near the harbour. We took a train to Blue Mountains and spent an entire day over there; if time is of essence then skip Blue Mountains.
Stop – 2 Cairns (Great Barrier Reef)
From Sydney, we flew into Cairns, about 3 hours flight, and rented a car, which was really not necessary as we stayed right in the tourist area where all the outfitters were and all the activities were in the water, but I wanted to look for Platypus, Kangaroos and Koalas which I later found out – it is almost impossible to see a Platypus in wild.
Keep couple of buffer days to visit Great Barrier Reef because the fundamental pleasure of experiencing reefs is – great sunlight and crystal clear waters. There is age minimum to do deep sea diving, so snorkeling is an option as well for kids. The outfitter will take you in the open oceans, drop the anchor for about 3 hours, you deep sea dive in a certain perimeter until heart’s content. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life!
Finally on the last day, we drove to neighboring towns and parks looking for wildlife – Platypus, Kangaroos and Koalas – we found plenty of Wallabies who are wannabe Kangaroo but none from my list.
After spending 4 days in Cairns, we flew into Christchurch New Zealand for our road trip across New Zealand’s south island.