See the first few days of the trip in posts I and II.
On Friday morning Andy and I woke up for our last morning in Port Douglas and packed up our things before heading to Cairns for a night. We had to check out of the hotel in PD at 10 am. We couldn't check in to the hotel in Cairns until 2 pm. The drive only takes an hour. Thus, we took our time, stopping for the view along the way.
The highway between Port Douglas and Cairns is pretty impressive. As far as highways go, it is pretty weak--one lane of traffic in each direction, super hills and curves and very few passing lanes. There are mountain back roads in Upstate NY which are better than the Captain Cook Highway. But the view is gorgeous. It is squeezed in between tree covered mountains and the ocean. We pulled off the highway for a minute to take some photos of the view. This is literally what you see from the road:
We got close to Cairns and still had 3 hours before we could get into the hotel, so we decided to drive west for 22 kms and visit the rainforest village of Kuranda. It's a tourist mecca, really popular with daytrippers, and it was crawling with visitors from Australia and overseas. There were three markets, all claiming to be "original" or "heritage", selling hippy-esque clothes, rainforest products, local food, and cheap trinkets. We wandered through a rock museum, drawn in by the dinosaur in the doorway.
After wandering around every inch of the village, we got away from most of the tourists who were car-less and drove out to get a look at Barron Falls Gorge. A 1.7 km hike along a rainforest boardwalk took us to a viewing platform. I'd love to see it in the wet season...
On the drive back down the mountains into Cairns, we stopped to enjoy the views.
Then we checked into our hotel, which was comfy enough but no where near as flash as the Port Douglas place. We showered and had a rest and then we headed out to see Cairns. Although it's only 4 1/2 hours north, this was my first time in the city. For a tropical beachside location, the beach is actually non-existent--it's more like a mudflat. Luckily they have a nice big oceanside pool.
To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with Cairns. It reminded me of Townsville with more backpackers. We went out for dinner at a mexican restaurant--thinking I could order any bean dishes sans cheese and sour cream. I was disappointed to find out that the only vegan option was the veggie fajitas, which were basically warm tortillas, a serve of stir-fry veggies (the kind that come frozen and pre-mixed!), salsa and lettuce. I was disappointed. Andy got spinach & cheese enchiladas and found them dry and not very good. Our entree was pretty delicious--prickly pear cactus fries with sweet chilli sauce. I was looking forward to the mango daquiris which were buy one get one, but they tasted like pineapple juice and were questionably alcoholic. It was a good reminder that mexican restaurants are pretty disappointing in Australia (except for Trippy Taco!). The highlight of the meal was sitting on the balcony, listening to the lorikeets in the trees and watching hundreds of fruit bats fly over head as night fell.
That was basically the end of our trip. We drove back to Townsville the next morning, making the obligatory stop at Frosty Mango for a sorbet. Andy got Jackfruit and I got mamey sapote. While we were there we stretched our legs and wandered through the orchard looking at the fruit trees.
It was nice to get away for a few days, and nice to see part of the country I hadn't been to yet, but it was very nice to get home at the end of it!