Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Cairns is probably one of the closest and cheapest cities in Australia we can fly to from Port Moresby. As the PNG environment takes its toll on us, we decided to take a weekend away. Cairns is a perfect for a quick getaway and we only wish we had more time to enjoy the myriad of things it has to offer.
First off, we stayed at Il Palazzo Boutique Hotel. The location is fabulous as it is in the middle of all the action. Super close to the Pier and the Reef Fleet Terminal and Esplanade. The Cairns Night Markets are also next door. Service is tops and they’re not fussy about check-ins and check-outs. There is a car and bike hire shop next door, which is quite handy. The rooms are very clean and spacious. The one bedroom apartment can fit 4 people easy. Only annoying thing is that the aircon tends to shut by itself when it thinks it’s getting too cold, but it does turn on again after a while. Overall, we’re pretty happy with it. Next time though, we’ll go try the Hotel Cairns because of their smart cars and oh-so pretty design and architecture. Looks like one of those mansions 1950s aristocrats in the tropics used to have. :P
As for food, you can find it everywhere and throughout our stay we went to different places for food and not even one dish disappointed us. Everything is fantastic! Here are some of the ones we went to and absolutely recommend:
1. There is a café at the Reef Fleet Terminal next to where people register for the reef tours. Awesome café style Italian food. Very good for a quick food fix.
2. Boardwalk Café is a very good breakfast spot. They do really good breakfasts and coffees. This one I picked up from a recommendation online. The address is Boardwalk Café, The Pier, Quayside, Shop1b/Wharf St. It’s at the back end of the The Pier mall, facing the dock. I recommend the Chorizo sausage breakfast by the way :P
3. Barnacle Bill’s is a really good seafood place. Our friend recommended it to us. The hotel receptionist recommended it, too, and the waiter at Boardwalk Café. So it’s quite highly regarded. Get there and order before 6pm and you get a 30% discount! We both got a seafood platter called Bill’s Beauty, which has a huge selection of both fried and fresh seafood served with really nice chips. Very good.
4. Just outside the Cairns Night Markets is Gelattaria. It’s an ice cream shop on Abbott Street. I tried their Macadamia flavour. You can really taste the macadamia in it. Like they processed the nuts really fine and made it into ice cream, not to mention the whole macadamias they put on it as well. Yummmmmm
5. We also went to try Villa Romana. This is open from breakfast (starting at 6.30am) to dinner. We had their buffet breakfast and it was super good. Gawd… Never thought pasta from a breakfast buffet could be so good! So creamy and al dente and delicious. Definitely work by experts! A couple of our friends went there as well for breakfast and thought it was good, too.
6. C’est Bon French Restaurant. This is a MUST try. It won awards and the food truly speaks for itself. Definitely the best meal we’ve had in ages. It’s on 20 Lake Street and you can go their website (http://www.cestbon.com.au/cairns/) to reserve as dinners tend to be packed here. You can also call at (07)4051 4488 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The owners are very friendly and we had a chat with the old bloke at the bar while waiting for our table. We had the set menu with 3 courses which was only around $40-$50, which is pretty good for French fare. We also got a free glass of dessert wine each before dessert, which was fantastic. I recommend their mushroom soup with a puff pastry lid top, chicken in cream and white wine, roast pork in red wine sauce with lentils, and their citrusy yoghurt dessert.
There are many quaint places around the area and you’d never run out of choices. And they don’t close early either. The Night Markets close at 11pm and some of the little café and food places outside at the Esplanade and around there open til even later.
We only had one Saturday for activities. We went to book with a company called Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises. They have a lot of choices on what kind of package you would like. Their website is http://www.bigcat-cruises.com.au. We did all the booking online and all enquiries were answered very promptly as well. We did the half day Green Island and half day ATV package. You can arrange for a coach to pick you up at your hotel and this also consists of a drop off back to the hotel at the end of the day. As for meals, it depends on what tour package you have opted for. Next time, we are planning to get the morning hot air balloon ride and the full day Green Island trip. Tip: Ask about the semi sub boat ride, ocean walk and other reef activities. I didn’t know they had these extra activities until I got on their boat. Might be because I didn’t go through their site thoroughly. Just thought that it would be a nice heads up for you to know that there are other things they offer aside from the normal stuff. ☺ And also, it is possible to add on activities on the day itself. My husband changed his mind and wanted to snorkel as well and arranged it when we were on the boat already. They have the equipment on board plus some underwater cameras, too.
Green Island is so awesome and I bet I can stay two days there easily. You can lounge around at the beach, snorkel, do tons of reef activities, eat, go to the spa, they even have shops there. As it was my time of the month (too much information? :P) my husband went snorkelling himself and encountered a sting ray, a turtle, a prawn, and fish, amongst other things. He was so excited about all of it. I, on the other hand, was enjoying the rays on a lounge chair with a parasol and an icey pole in hand. Afterwards, we went on the glass bottom boat tour and saw corals, fish, and… a SHARK! Awesome! It might not make sense to get an underwater camera to take photos of sea life and corals since the guide told us that the colours don’t show properly anyway, some scientific reason about the reflection of the sun and light bouncing away from the water and distorting colours. Professional photographers have special strobe lights to help them get the colours out onto the photos. There is also a hotel on the island itself and an apartment with one bedroom is like $600+ a night, so expensive. But this is inclusive of ferry transfers, use of all facilities and swim/dive/snorkel equipment. With more people, it kinda adds up the same anyway.
Back on the mainland in the afternoon, we were picked up by the coach to go to Kurama for Blazing Saddles Adventure Trip’s ATV. It’s an all-terrain vehicle riding experience that got me pretty knocked out tired for the next 2-3days. Those damn things are so heavy, you can really feel its weight while trying to manoeuvre it! If you like adventure and extreme sports, this is something for you. You go down steep slopes, on mud, dust, sand, through forests on that big four-wheel motorbike type of vehicle. You come out of that pretty dirty and caked with dust. I managed to tip mine over while going down a hill, which was pretty dangerous. I was lucky to escape unscathed. It was a really good experience nonetheless, something to tell people about and something to tick off the bucket list. I didn’t think it was going to be hard. I wonder if I still would’ve done it with some warning before actually booking it. :P
The rest of the trip we went shopping, watched a movie and explored the city on foot and in the car. These are must-dos for us every time we go back to Australia since Port Moresby has no shopping centres, clothes shops or cinemas. There are no walking places either and with security concerns, exploration on foot is a very stupid thing to do. How sad is that. :P
So yeah… That was pretty much our Cairns experience. Hope it gives you some ideas for yours. ☺