After the most incredible week in New Zealand, the 2nd (and 3rd!) part of our Christmas trip begun. We began in the northern Australian city of Cairns. We chose this area as it was easily accessible to the Great Barrier Reef, it was known for its great beaches and it has a rainforest!
Kicking this part off with a bang, our first stop was the Great Barrier Reef! We did a full day tour with Passions. We chose them because they were one of the smaller tour companies, and their boat is a brand new catamaran! The trip out to the reef was about two hours, which to be honest, surprised both me and Dan! But let me tell you…it was WELL WORTH the long trip out there! As we were on a smaller boat and we lucked out with the weather/wind conditions we were able to visit some of the best reef spots in this area!
We were both blown away with the amount and variety of fish we saw. The schools’ of fish were massive! From teeny tiny fish swimming in schools of thousands, to massive parrot fish swimming together in groups of ten or twenty. I will let our GoPro videos speak for themselves – there really are no good words that I can use to describe the Great Barrier Reef. It’s something that you just have to experience for yourselves!
Oh! And we saw some sharks too! They’re just reef sharks, so they aren’t too threatening. The white tip ones are completely non-aggressive, but the black tip sharks can become aggressive if threatened. They were fun to swim around and watch.
We were able to spend about 3 total hours in the water snorkeling, which was perfect. I mean, mermaid Kirsten could have spent ALL day in there, but they forced me out J It was a magical day, we are so happy we were able to see the GBR. I will say, the colour of the corals were not at all what we expected, as they were a bit more muted than coral we have seen at other snorkeling spots (ie Zanzibar), but the fish and the vastness of the reef here were definitely one of a kind!
It was really hard to believe that the next day was CHRISTMAS DAY! It was a totally bizarre feeling as it was our first time not having a white Christmas! I mean, technically we had a white sandy beach, so I guess that counts! We spent the day relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean and floating in our hotel pool. We found out that a lot of people from other parts of Australia come up to Cairns for holiday. We made some friends from the Outback that were there for Christmas weekend. We learned from them that the traditional meal for Christmas is barbequing meats and having an outdoor family-style picnic. They were so fun and let us enjoy some of the local fruits and snacks with them! That evening, we wanted to partake in this tradition, so we used the hotels’ awesome barbeque area and put some steak and shrimp on the Barbie!
We spent the next day exploring the Daintree Rainforest. We took a really cool glass bottom gondola ride over the canopy of the rainforest. The gondola offered a few stop off points along the way before ending at a little village in the middle of the rainforest. There, we visited a koala park where I was able to snuggle the cutest little koala bear! He (Charlie) was so sleepy, cuddly and soft! I had the hardest time giving him back to the handler!
After a full day in the rainforest, the last part of the day was the scenic railway back to our starting point. The train is a 2 hour journey through the rainforest over and through impressive bridges and tunnels. It was a stunning ride, and was nice that all of the carriages were open air.
On our last full day in the north, we spent the whole day relaxing. Both Dan and I aren’t ones to go on long beach vacations, and even if we go somewhere tropical, we tend to fill our time with activities rather than lay around and relax. But we decided we could use a little relaxation, so we enjoyed the incredibly hot tropical weather with our floaties in the ocean and the pool! We topped off our trip with a great meal at a beach bar.
We LOVED Cairns, particularly the Palm Cove area. We felt like we were in the coolest, hip local village. Everyone was so friendly! It was really hard to leave, but we left feeling relaxed, tanned and ready for a NYE celebration! We took a super early 6am flight down to Sydney to start the last leg of our trip!
This part of the trip was super special because we joined up with our friends from London the Phelps! They spent a week in Fiji before joining us in Sydney! We rented a really cool AirBNB flat in the Surrey Hills area. We didn’t know it when we booked, but that area is super trendy and filled with some of the best restaurants in Sydney!
Dan and I spent the first day relaxing at our AirBNB and jogging down to one of the marinas while we waitied for the Phelps to arrive that evening.
The next day we did the famous Congee to Bondi walk! It’s a stunning path that follows the stunning coastline for about 6.5 km. There are beautiful beaches and swimming spots along the way to stop and enjoy. We started first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, and are so glad we did because by the time we got to Bondi – it was PACKED! We stopped twice along the way to swim (we even saw some sting rays!) and ended in Bondi for lunch at a beachside restaurant where we enjoyed fish & chips!
In the evening we went to another lovely pizza dinner. We did so good with restaurants in Sydney! Not a single meal disappointed! As our AirBNB had an awesome outdoor deck on the 2nd floor, every night after dinner we found ourselves hanging out playing games enjoying the weather!
Our next full day was spent doing our own version of a city walking tour. We hit up the typical spots: Sydney Harbor bridge, botanical gardens, the Opera House and walked many of the streets in and around the area.
That night we went to a really cool rooftop taco and margarita bar. Between the four of us, I think we’d all agree taco’s and margs are quite possibly the best combination of food there is. It was the perfect evening (not too hot!) and the vibe was awesome there. Would totally recommend Sweethearts
to anyone going to Sydney!
The next day was our last full day in Sydney – an it was New Years Eve! We had our big NYE celebration in the evening, so for the day we decided to relax and take the ferry over to Manly Beach to hang out for the day. The ferry ride was so pretty – I can see why people use it to commute daily! What a way to get to work!
While Gina, Charles and I spent the day relaxing on the beach…Dan hit the waves for some surfing! It was quite busy, and the waves were pretty small – but he spent the better part of a few hours *trying* to ride the waves 🙂
So that night was the big one! Although not the main reason we came to Sydney…but one of the big ones! NEW YEARS EVE!!! We ended up going to an island party at Shark Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. There was a ferry that took everyone out to the island, then we had the whole island to make a picnic spot and enjoy the evening. Dan was incredible and sprinted off the boat and went to what we think was the ABSOLUTE BEST spot on the island to secure out spot for the night. We had the most perfect view of the bridge where the fireworks are set off from! We set up our little picnic spot with all of the goodies that we brought with us and enjoyed a few hours of eating and games before the first round of fireworks went off. They do two sets, one at 9:00 for kids then the big show at midnight. I had pretty high expectations for the fireworks…and they still completely rocked my socks off! They did such a fantastic job. It was so uhh-mazing! If we were ever to go again, I can say we did NYE perfectly. From our spot on the island, the ability to bring our own picnic, the perfect weather, the friends we were with, to the unbelievable fireworks show – all perfection!
Australia was so much fun. We already know we want to go back someday and explore the incredible continent further. There is so much more there that we didn’t see, but what we did was amazing. It was so fun to be able to experience Sydney with the Phelps too! They were so fun to travel with and we can’t wait to do more together! Not sure if we’ll ever be able to top this Christmas and NYE!