Before this year I’d never been to Australia. I’d never travelled that far, I’d never researched that part of the world, and quite frankly I never thought I’d ever have the chance to visit there. Until now.
When Visit Queensland and Philippine Airlines got in touch inviting me along for a two-week trip I was nervous. It’s a long way and to a part of the globe I’ve never experienced before, but I was also unequivocally excited. Exploring the rainforest, swimming on the Great Barrier Reef and meandering through the lazy port towns – what a perfect way to explore a new part of the world, especially one as diverse as Queensland.
We flew from London Heathrow to Manila and then straight into Cairns, Queensland. The flight was a breeze and the travel time really didn’t seem that long at all. With 4 hours in Manila – residing in the lounge (well worth the upgrade if you can) and then straight onto Oz, it hardly felt like any time at all and we were ready to start our adventure as soon as we arrived.
We had so many incredible experiences in Queensland and I feel as if I have so much to say with no idea how I’m going to cram it all in! So let me take you on a journey through our time in Oz starting in Palm Cove, travelling through the rainforest and back to our original destination of Cairns.
We began in Palm Cove with a visit to a day spa and breakfast at Nu Nu overlooking the sea. Spa treatments, especially massages are a great thing to organise after a long flight to relax those tense muscles and ease your way into a new timezone. The staff at Alamanda Palm Cove were excellent and hearing the gentle lap of the waves outside whilst having our full body treatments was just divine – definitely recommended for a relaxing day spa experience.
We stayed at The Reef House and Spa, right on the beachfront – a quaint friendly hotel. With four poster beds, two pools and delicious food we were made to feel right at home in this boutique relaxed beach house resort. Highly recommended if you’re looking to stay in Palm Cove, it feels like one big family and is in an incrediby relaxing setting.
After a fantastic night’s sleep (24 hour of travel will do that to you!) we woke up at 4am for a Sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride with Raging Thunder Adventures! I’d never done a hot air balloon ride before but what a place for my first experience. Stumbling across a field in the dark watching these huge balloons filling up and start to rise was amazing. Knowing we were climbing into that tiny basket and going to be floating up above the trees was even more so!
The ascent was so smooth and our time floating around up there was incredibly peaceful watching the sun rise and the other balloons floating around beside us. The roar of the flames above us and the twitter of the birds waking up beneath us was a real experience. I absolutely loved it, what a wonderful way to see Queensland – highly recommended indeed…and well worth the early start!
After our stay in Palm Cove we took a drive to Port Douglas for a couple of nights, and on the way we stopped off at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures to learn about the native animals that live in Oz. Hartley’s do a lot of rescue work with Koalas, Kangaroos and Birds that get found injured and are in need of help so it’s lovely to see their work in the park and how much the keepers care for their creatures.
We learnt so much about the Aussie animals and even got to watch feeding time with the crocs which was quite simply terrifying – what a serious reptile they are…and I thought the Komodo Dragons were scary!
ACCOMMODATION ALERT: If it’s luxury and relaxation you’re looking for then I must tell you about Thala Beach Nature Reserve as the ultimate place to stay in Oak Beach. We had the pleasure of lunch there and with its idyllic beach house rooms, delicious food, caring staff and some SERIOUSLY incredible views its well worth a look if you’re on the hunt for a romantic hideaway holiday in Queensland. Stunning. You must try their coconut cocktails too…even if they are a bit heavy after a while!
During our stay in Port Douglas we stopped at the QT Hotel which oozed cool from the lobby right to our apartments! With a gorgeous pool setting, incredible food (seriously, that breakfast though) and lovingly very well made cocktails I was in heaven! We enjoyed an afternoon chilling in the hotel before our next adventure – a sunset sail with Aquarius Port Douglas Cruises…complete with Champagne. I was in heaven! Make sure you bring a jacket as it gets a bit windy on deck!
Whilst staying in Port Douglas we decided to visit Mossman Gorge Centre on the south of the Daintree Rainforest where we took part in one of their dreamtime walks learning about the indigenous tribes and their relationship with the rainforest.
We started with a traditional smoking ceremony, followed by a wonderfully intimate walking tour through the rainforest learning how tribes would make medicine, shelter and their deepest traditions and beliefs. It was fascinating and as we sipped our traditional tea at the end it was clear we’d all found a new connection to the rainforest and respect for the indigenous community.
(Playsuit & Cardigan, Primark)
I really would recommend heading over to Mossman Gorge during your stay in Queensland – it’s absolutely gorgeous and you can even have a dip or a sip from the natural streams running through it. A great way to learn about the history of the land and get a little closer to nature.
At night Port Douglas is a real hub, I loved it. With a great selection of different cuisines, nice bars, pubs and a friendly warm and relaxed feel – I’ll definitely be back to spend more time there. I felt incredibly at home in Port Douglas and the QT Hotel was right up my street. Definitely, check this part of Queensland out on your trip, I can’t recommend it enough.
The next day we took a drive to Cape Tribulation along the one winding road through the rainforest to our resort for the next couple of days. Stopping for a quick bite at Turtle Rock Cafe (great burgers and wraps by the way) we then embarked on our next adventure – Jungle Surfing!
High above the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest you’ll find the Jungle Surfing Adventure Centre where their enthusiastic team have created a ziplining adventure course through the trees! Each platform and wire system is attached to the tree without holes or screws so no trees are hurt during your experience – this, I loved. They also rotate the trees every so often to give them a break.
The team here were so much fun cracking jokes and genuinely making us all belly laugh in between each line. Some were double wires, others went upside down and another you could even race on it was so much fun! And we even got a little education about the rainforest, trees and plants as we went round. I loved it! Having been to Go Ape in the UK I have to say that Jungle Surfing in Cape Tribe was just another level of awesome.
Our accommodation for the next couple of nights was at Cape Tribulation Beach House – a series of beach huts nestled right in the rainforest and about 10 paces from cape tribulation beach. Our beach houses were, I would say, basic but they did all have their own air con which was a big help at night. Comfortable beds, bathrooms and a super short walk to a surprisingly amazing restaurant and well stocked bar considering the nearest shop is about two hours away!
The Beach House had a lovely relaxed backpacker vibe with everyone wanting to talk to you over a couple of beers or around the fire pit on the sand in the evening. I’ll admit, it wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to stay but after our two nights there I’d fallen in love with the place and would 100% go back.
After waking up to a delicious breakfast of eggs benedict with fresh smoked salmon at the beach house we embarked on our next Great Barrier Reef adventure – a day sailing and snorkelling with Sailaway Reef & Island Tours! Our boat was quite simply beautiful with plush leather seats and fresh coffee waiting for us as we stepped aboard. Sunbathing spots on deck called to us as we sailed out onto the ocean to find a spot to drop anchor, don our masks and flippers and dive right in!
We saw so much sea life on that day – the reef is absolutely beautiful. Fish galore, colourful coral and I even got to swim with a sea turtle for about 20 minutes, it was incredible. After our first snorkel, we hopped back on board for lunch before heading out again for more underwater adventures.
What a lovely way to see the reef and you could do as much snorkelling and sunbathing as you like depending on what takes your interest. At the end of the day we were dropped off right on the beach just paces from our rooms – what service!
(Top & Skirt, Primark | Sandals, ASOS | Sunglasses, Instagram)
Our final stop of our tour of Queensland was back where we very first started a week ago – Cairns. Going from sleeping in a wooden beach house in the middle of the rainforest to a huge luxury hotel in the middle of the city was quite a difference! But we were certainly in the land of luxury with our stay at the Pullman Reef Hotel and Casino – just look at those rooms!
They have a giant digital wall with fish that swim under your feet and even a mini wildlife centre and tight rope adventure playground on the roof…a few levels above the gorgeous pool that is! With live entertainment in the evenings and stunning views from their suits, The Pullman Reef Hotel really is a beautiful place to stay in the city. Their cocktails are really great too which seems to be a bit of a running theme in my reviews!
But we’re not one to sit around in Queensland drinking cocktails when there’s adventures to be had! Ok we are, but we also go on the adventures, and the next one was a Helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef with GBR Helicopters! Now I’d never been in a helicopter before so I was super excited (and a little nervous) but after being weighed and watching our safety briefing we were off…and sat in the front seat!
The views were just incredible gliding over the reef and even spotting a giant manta ray and turtle swimming through the shallow clear blue waters. It was breathtaking. If you’re a little scared of the water then this is a fantastic way to see the reef from above instead, or if you just fancy doing something extra special and very, very cool.
For our last day in Queensland we took a trip to Fitzroy Island for a spot of relaxation, more snorkelling and a visit to their turtle rehab centre! About an hour away by boat Fitzroy Island is an open resort where you can stay or simply visit for the day. It’s small but very beautiful with lovely walks through the rainforest and sandy and coral beaches to run your toes through.
(Top, Primark | Shorts, New Look | Sunglasses, Moathouse Eyewear)
Their turtle rehab centre looks after rescued turtles and nurses them back to health before releasing them back into the wild. It’s such a heartwarming place to visit and some that does some incredible work for the ocean and the creatures who live in it.
On our last evening, we were all completely wiped out after so many incredible adventures, so we enjoyed our final meal together in Queensland at a lovely place called Ochre. Crocodile and kangaroo paired with delicious Australian wines all presented beautifully with so much flavour – if you’re dining out in Cairns this place comes highly recommended from me, I want to eat my meal all over again!
On our journey back with Philippine Airlines we did a one night stopover in Manilla and experienced true luxury with Shangrila at the Fort which really helped with the jet lag. Think gigantic plush beds, huge baths and walk-in showers, rooftop pools, multiple delicious dining options and staff that can’t do enough for you. Well worth a night’s stop if your itinerary allows it and it really helps to break up the travel too.
I can’t begin to explain how incredible my first experience of Australia was or just how beautiful Queensland is. I think the photos here speak for themselves to show the variety of things you can do in this part of the world and just how diverse it is too. You really can see why so many people from the UK immigrate here. The food is amazing, the people are right up our street and the weather, well, it’s just a dream come true.
From the rainforest to the great barrier reef and all that fun in between. Queensland, you have been EPIC and I can’t wait to visit you again one day and explore even more.