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Tag: Hiking

What to Do in Cairns, Australia

What to Do in Cairns, Australia

Cairns is located in the far northern reaches of Queensland in the northeastern corner of Australia. Once a booming port for the goldfields, it’s now a popular destination for tourists (foreign and Australian) exploring the nearby Great Barrier Reef and other points further north. It is probably my favourite city in Australia – from its small town vibe to it’s laid back feel and great weather. It’s a great city for travelers as it’s well laid out (so it’s hard to get too lost) with so much in close proximity to the downtown area and waterfront. Plus all the great outdoor activities right on its door step. If you’re wondering what to do in Cairns, I got you covered.

View from the top of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia
View from the top of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is a 2-hour drive north of the city of Cairns and well worth it. It is one of the most complex tropical rainforest ecosystems on earth and is also a region of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site.

You can go up and explore on your own, or take one of the many guided tours available. Since I was new to the area and would likely get lost in the forest I took a tour with Jungle Tours. In addition to getting me up there, the tour stopped at a wildlife habitat to see some kangaroos and crocodiles, the Alexandra Lookout for magnificent views of the Coral Sea and Daintree River, Cape Tribulation for lunch (which we ended up sharing with a Komodo dragon who stopped by our picnic table) and to hang out on the beach, a boat ride up the Daintree river to look for more crocodiles, and a walk through the Dubuji Boardwalk in the rainforest. It was a long day but such an experience!

The beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland Australia
The beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the longest reef in the world and the largest living structure on the planet (yes coral is a living thing). The reef is home to thousands of marine creatures including corals, worms, fish, rays, dolphins, sharks, whales, jellyfish and mollusks and is most always on everyone’s list of travel tips for Australia. Cairns has long been a destination for both international and local Australian divers as a starting point for diving the reef. Don’t dive? No worries mate as there are numerous local boating charters that will take you out to cruise through and around the reef, or take you snorkeling so that you can see the reef first hand and up close. Or if you prefer a birds-eye view, there are local helicopter companies that will fly you out so that you can really take in the reef, the surrounding rainforest and the whole city of Cairns.

Tropical fish in the Great Barrier Reef off Green Island, Queensland, Australia.
Tropical fish in the Great Barrier Reef off Green Island, Queensland, Australia.

Green Island

When I was in Cairns I was told by a fellow solo traveler at my hostel to try the Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruise charter to Green Island and I’m glad I did. Leaving at 9am, we traveled for just over an hour out to the island on a massive catamaran then had 5 hours to explore the island, the water and the Great Barrier Reef around it. The journey out to the island was great as we snaked our way around small coral cays. Once on the island, there were tonnes of things to do:

  • Snorkeling
  • Helmet diving
  • Glass bottom boat tours (for those travelers who want to see the reef but don’t want to get wet)
  • Nature walks through the island’s rainforest (both guided and self-guided)
  • Water sports including canoes, windsurfing and water-skiing
  • Beach volleyball
  • Lazing around on the gorgeous white sandy beaches to work on your tan

The island also has several restaurant options so you won’t go hungry while you’re there. It’s a great way to spend the day and experience the Great Barrier Reef first hand.

Esplanade Boardwalk

Running alongside the waterfront is the Esplanade Boardwalk. During the day it’s an idyllic place to catch some rays, peruse the various displays about the Aboriginal and local history, or use the various pieces of exercise equipment sporadically located alongside the esplanade. In the late afternoon, the activity picks up as people jog along, meet for picnics or just meet up to enjoy the scenery. It’s also a great place for travelers and locals alike to hang out and people watch. Be careful to stay out of the water, there are signs posted everywhere about the crocodiles that inhabit the area.

Crocodile warning sign on the beach boardwalk in Cairns Queensland Australia
Crocodile warning sign on the beach boardwalk in Cairns, Australia

If you want to hit the water to beat the heat the Esplanade has it’s own lagoon. The almost 5000 square meter saltwater lagoon has sand so you can build sand castles (for kids of all sizes) as well as picnic tables, decks, some shaded areas, water fountains and really strange metal fish sculptures. On weekends the Lagoon sets up a stage and features local live music. It’s a great place to hang out right next to the water.

Hit the Rails

Another great way to see northern Queensland is by hitting the rails. There are several scenic railways leaving from Cairns that give travelers the chance to see the surrounding area.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway travels from Cairns north to the mountain village of Kuranda located in the Kuranda State Forest. You pass through hand carved tunnels, by the Barron Falls and across mountain gorges.

The Gulflander heads out to the remote outback. Long known as the railway that takes travelers from “nowhere to nowhere” the Gulflander travels between Normanton and Croydon, on the same route that once connected the river port to the bustling gold fields. The journey takes a half day and will take you from the wetlands through the grasslands and into the arid Savannah country of Croydon.

The Savannahlander offers a variety of tours that will take you into many of the unique areas surrounding Cairns. Many of the journeys include stops in Stoney Creek Falls, the Undara Lava Tubes, Chillagoe, Mt Surprise, Forsayth, Barron Falls, Karanda, Dimbulah and more. It’s a longer journey that will give you a great experience in a 1960’s classic silver bullet train.

Weekend in Haida Gwaii Travel Guide

Weekend in Haida Gwaii Travel Guide

There is no denying that Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with British Columbia (B.C.) having more than its fair share of natural wonders. Taking a little trip to the north coast of B.C. can open up a whole new world of culture and wonder, but you will have to step off the mainland in order to take it all in. We are of course talking about Haida Gwaii – sometimes referred to as the Queen Charlotte Islands – an archipelago of islands that sit a short 2-hour flight from Vancouver. The islands are close enough to be easily accessible to travelers, yet far enough away to make it feel as though you have stepped into a completely different world.

A big part of that comes down to the culture and history of the Haida people that is still very much active and on display throughout the islands. If you have a couple of days to spare, a visit to the islands is very much recommended, but the question you probably have is what you will be able to see and do over the course of the weekend. The answer is that there is a whole lot more on tap than you probably ever imagined.

The islands offer all kinds of different fun things to do, both on land and water. Let’s start on terra firma, though, and look at some of the activities in Haida Gwaii that take place on dry land.

There are all kinds of organized tours available, with some even designed to take you off the beaten path and into areas that the average tourist would likely otherwise miss. Bird watching is very big on the islands, as is biking, hiking, and camping. It’s a nature lover’s dream come true, with peace and quiet almost always on tap. Between hikes, you might consider taking out the clubs and for a round of golf. Choose between the Willows Golf Course, or the Dixon Entrance Golf & Country Club, both of which are stunning courses that deliver unique challenges to players of all levels.

As you might expect, there are plenty of activities in Haida Gwaii that require you to take to the water for fun. Canoeing and kayaking are very big, as are sailing and surfing. If you are looking to do a quiet spot of fishing, there are plenty of great spots to do so. You might also consider chartering a boat and going after some of the larger creatures that live below the surface.

You should plan on saving some time to do a little shopping, as the islands are littered with unique little stores and galleries where Haida art is readily on display and ready for purchase. There are also a number of great dining spots visit, with everything from casual pub grub to 5-star dining on offer. These are just a few things that you can do on a weekend visit to Haida Gwaii, although you might need to stay longer if you want to do them all.

To learn more about Haida Gwaii visit Go Haida Gwaii

Been to the Queen Charlotte Islands? Let us know if we missed anything. 

Enjoy the Outdoors in Western Canada

Enjoy the Outdoors in Western Canada

If you are looking for some great outdoor opportunities for your next holiday than you simply can’t get any better than Western Canada. For the outdoor enthusiast, this region provides some of the premier camping, hiking, skiing and sport fishing opportunities in North America.

Western Canada is composed of the four westernmost provinces: Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and BC. Every year, thousands of people descend on this area to enjoy its beautiful rivers, mountains, coasts and forests.

Sport Fishing in Western Canada

Without a doubt, those looking to “hook up” will not be disappointed with the opportunities available here. I am of course referring to hooking up with one of the region’s well known sport fish. Throughout the region, there are many different types of fish to be caught; both freshwater and saltwater. Among the fish available are:

  • Trout
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
  • Bass
  • Sturgeon

Whether you are into fly-fishing or traditional bait and tackle, the opportunities are endless.

Land Management Ensures A Quality Outing

Canada’s use and stewardship of its lands and waterways ensure that travelers seeking to enjoy the outdoors, whether sport fishing, camping, hiking, or skiing, will be sure to find the land as pristine and as beautiful as it was centuries ago.

Western Canada may have miles and miles of uninhabited land to enjoy, but that does not mean that they take it for granted. Strict government regulations are followed to ensure that the land is enjoyed and preserved for future generations. Fishing is regulated to ensure that overfishing does not damage the local populations and ecosystem. Many of the fishing opportunities are guided tours, ensuring not only that you will have a successful and enjoyable trip, but that the travelers coming after you will enjoy the same beauty and experience that you have.

Fly-fishing in British Columbia

Perhaps one of the premier sport fishing opportunities can be found in British Columbia. Here, fly fishing opportunities abound on the Pacific coast, and there are various species that can be caught. Among these are:

  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Steelhead
  • Char

British Columbia boasts of some of the best fly fishing opportunities in the world for trout and salmon. Be sure to check which fish are in season, or schedule your trip around the fishing season of your choice. The local sport fishing seasons are as follows:

  • Salmon: July – Mid November
  • Trout and Char: March – November
  • Steelhead: March -May

A really unique fishing opportunity is to charter one of the many helicopter fishing tours, and fly out to remote rivers, streams and lakes for a really great day of fishing.

An Outdoor Adventure Worth Having

So, if you are looking for a place to have your next outdoor vacation, we think Western Canada is worth your consideration. It is one of the few spots left in North America that offers access to clear rivers and streams, beautiful mountain trails, exhilarating ski slopes, and an opportunity to reconnect with nature in an unforgettable way. Whatever your outdoor enthusiasm is, Western Canada has got you covered.

Been to western Canada? Let us know if we missed anything that others should know about.