Postcards from Cairns

A beach getaway was the perfect way to mark the end of my internship, summer class, and simply to celebrate the warm weather appropriately. I had the pleasure to visit Cairns with my favorite person, and I still can’t believe it took me so long to explore this tropical paradise just 1.5 hours flight from Brisbane.

Cairns (lesson learned, pronounced ‘cans’) has it all: gorgeous beaches, beautiful waterfalls and rainforests, swimming lagoons, marine life galore, waterfront boardwalks, and natural beauty all around. And even though it was a quick four and half day trip, we had enough sunshine to make it feel longer. I believe that every place can be visited on a budget and Cairns is no exception. Here’s a glimpse of what our itinerary looked like.

Day 1: Brisbane to Cairns
We flew TigerAir (because budget) and was welcomed by one of the most beautiful sunsets overlooking the mountains and coast of Cairns, flying just hundreds of feet above the Great Barrier Reef shortly before landing. Since we arrived in the evening on Sunday, we took full advantage of the free time to unwind in the city, took a stroll and dined in the Night Market, just a short walk away from our accommodation.

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We stayed in Global Backpackers hostel, which was $30 per night. Staying in a hostel was fine, despite having to share kitchen and bathroom with about 50 other people. Perks: just a two-minute stroll from the Esplanade lagoon and Woolworths just around the corner.

Day 2: Great Barrier Reef
While there is a huge variety of cruise excursions available, considering Great Barrier Reef was going to be the highlight of the trip, we thought we’d splurge on this one. We chose the Ocean Spirit cruise, and it surely didn’t disappoint. It was an epic full day tour, and I’m already low key planning to go back with my siblings to scuba dive together.

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We boarded the catamaran early in the morning and sailed our way to the Michaelmas Cay, where we got to jump on board their semi-submersible and snorkeled straight off the beach. The cay itself is essentially a National Park and a protected sanctuary for migratory seabirds, fringed by white sandy beaches, and pristine blue waters. We saw lots of colorful fishes and giant corals (mind the stingers), which kept us entertained for hours.

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Day 3: Chasing Waterfalls
The Great Barrier Reef may be this region’s major calling card, but don’t let your adventures stop there. We went with the Waterfall Wanderers tour and traveled south of Cairns to discover North Queensland’s hidden rainforest gems.  First was sliding down a natural rockslide of Josephine Falls, and next was swimming in the iconic Milaa Milaa Falls.

GOPR2779.jpgFor lunch, they took us to a classic small-town pub where we enjoyed some good old-fashioned country cooking. As the afternoon rolled in, we were headed to the Mount Hypipamee crater and Dinner Falls, and finally to check out the Curtain Fig Tree in Yungaburra (the inspiration behind Avatar’s giant tree). Our last stop was Lake Eacham, where we could apparently swim with harmless freshwater crocodiles.

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Day 4: Palm Cove – Cairns Esplanade
This was Valentine’s Day and our day was pleasingly unscheduled. After a brief stop for coffee and froyo in the morning, we decided to get on the bus and headed for Palm Cove. The picturesque little beach town is a hub for spa resorts, cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and a gorgeous beach lined with palm trees and jetties.

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After loading on the sunscreen, we laid down our beach towel and took a blissful nap under the shade. We went back to Cairns for an afternoon swim in the Esplanade, taking in the stunning view as the sun went down.

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We then had little birthday/Valentine’s Day dinner at the Salt House restaurant & bar by the pier and went for a long walk along the beach. It was the perfect way to end our last full day in town.

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Day 5: Flying Back Home
After checking out, I Googled for a local’s favorite for our last meal in Cairns. We had an exquisite brunch at Perrotta’s at The Gallery, where I wrote down postcards to be addressed to my family back home and to Canada. By then it was too humid to be outdoors, so we went inside the Contemporary Arts Gallery to enjoy a much-needed air conditioning and kill time before flying back to Brisbane.


If you’re ever planning to visit Cairns, get some itinerary ideas here. And I would love to hear your say on your favorite destination in Australia!



Beach Hopping in Byron Bay

You know those awkward days between Christmas and New Years when you’re just kinda lost and don’t know what to do? I knew better than to fool myself into thinking that I was going to be productive – we all know it was going to be spent binge watching some trashy TVs and eating junk. So a couple of friends and I decided to might as well get out of town, and here’s documenting our visit to the small cosy coastal town of Byron Bay, New South Wales.


If there are two things I love doing when traveling, is going on a roadtrip, and going to the waters. Both of which I got to do during this 3-day roadtrip I will take you through. We rented a car from Brisbane and slowly made our way to Byron Bay and made it to our first stop at the Famous Yatala Pies just in time for breakfast. I treated myself to their classic steak&mushroom pie and apple turnover, and just thinking about those pies got me low-key drooling right now, so let’s get a move on.

Our second stop along the way (about 100km south of Brisbane) was Springbrook National Park, located just before the border of New South Wales. After seeing tons of pictures of the park’s Natural Bridge from Google, you would expect the view to be no less than perfect. And after about a half an hour hike through a beautiful subtropical rainforest (it was even better after the rain), it’s safe to say that no pictures could do the place justice. Definitely one of the waterfalls to see when you visit Queensland, hands down.

After about an hour drive across the border, we checked into our accommodation, Two Birds & The Aviary. While far from the usual Airbnb gig I’d normally go for (a tent with a sleeping bag, a shared bathroom, and communal kitchen), I’m proud to say that I survived my first legit camping experience! I’m also really happy about the fact that the camping ground had direct access to Tallows Beach and is an easy roll in to town.

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We started the day with an attempt to catch sunrise at Cape Byron (only to be greeted by rain), which is the most easterly point of mainland Australia and home to the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse. Nestled in under the Lighthouse is the Wategos Beach, surrounded by stunning cliffs and crashing waves.

After breakfast, we were headed to Whites Beach, one of Byron’s hidden gems. Take note though, it was quite a struggle for us to get there. We had to travel down a dirt road that winds through the rainforest, our car broke down (God bless the people who stopped by to help jump start our car in the middle of nowhere), almost an hour spent on waiting due to limited parking spots, and trekked along a narrow path down to the beach.

But trust me, it’s worth sweat and sunburn. From white sands, crystal clear water and secluded rock pools, I’m so happy we didn’t give up when we had a million reasons to. We continued with lunch by the beach, a little stroll around town and ended the day in Main Beach, surrounded by live music, sunset, and my loved ones.

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Not being much of an early riser, I’d make exception for a sunrise by the beach, because all the lack of sleep always pays off when Mother Nature puts on her finest show. The track from my camp to Tallow Beach itself is literally a path to paradise taken right out of Nicholas Sparks’ novel. While no sunrise will ever be the same, this one will forever remain one of my favorites.

We ended our trip with a short visit to The Farm, and if you know me, I’ve always had a soft spot for places like this one. From the sunflower plots, cattle-dotted fields, to their restaurant, produce store, bakery, and a florist, I couldn’t stop roaming around this rustic-themed oasis like a kid in a candy store. After grabbing some quick drinks and fish&chips, we drove back to Brisbane and shamelessly stopped at Yatala to bring some frozen pies home, again (it’s that good!).

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