The last leg of Australia: up the NE Coast, Fraser Island & the Great Barrier Reef!

Mar 20, 2011 | by Jimmy

In Neils last update we’d just arrived at Rainbow Beach, a small seaside town famous for it’s close proximity to Fraser Island. We spent three nights in quite a posh guesthouse (we felt like we needed a little luxury as we were still feeling rather delicate after Mardi Gras). We had a couple of relaxing days, sleeping, sunbathing on the beach and cooking scrumptious burgers on our BBQ. On our third day we set off for Fraser Island. We booked a two day tour of Fraser Island and had an amazing time. It’s a fascinating place, the worlds biggest evolving sand mass; it’s constantly changing and grows about 1.5 meters each year. The island has spectacular beaches, gorgeous ‘perched’ lakes, lush rainforests and multicoloured rock formations. It’s one of Australia’s nineteen world heritage sites and is home to ample wildlife, over 300 species of birds and the famous pure dingo’s (only 200 on the island). We took in some of the islands highlights including the pinnacles (rainbow coloured cliffs - said to be coloured by the remains of a rainbow lizard man slayed by an evil warrior as his princess bride had fallen in love with him - an aboriginal tale), Indian Heads (the heart of the island, a rocky cliff that all the sand formed around), the 75 mile beach, Eli Creek, Central station’s rainforest with it’s humongous trees and the idyllic white sanded Lake Mackenzie with it’s crystal clear water. We camped in little shacks at Dilli village and we’d packed bags of beer so in the evening we had a BBQ with lots of drinking and chatting. When we went to bed we realised that I’d received text messages & missed calls alerting us that the East coast of Australia was on tsunami alert following the Japanese earthquake. We went to bed listening to the roaring waves half-expecting to be swept away at any moment! Fortunately we survived the night with no tsunami (that makes the second tsunami alert we’ve survived unscathed; the first was from the Christchurch earthquake). The trip was great and the island was both beautiful and interesting, we thought it reminded us a lot of the island from Lost.

From Rainbow Beach we travelled up to Hervey Bay, another small town further up the coast. We only spent a night there as there was very little to see or do. The weather had taken another turn for the worst so we spent most of our time in the hostel, watching movies ;) Our next destination was Airlie Beach, it had a pretty man made beach/lagoon but unfortunately the weather wasn’t good enough to take advantage of it. We spent a couple of nights chilling out, strolling around the town and having drinks on the harbour. We’d planned to do a sailing trip to the Whitsunday islands but as the weather was so wet & the forecasts so unpredictable we decided against it. After Airlie Beach we caught the greyhound bus up to Townsville and spent a couple of days there. We were following the Japan situation closely as we were scheduled to fly there in under two weeks. On our first day at Airlie Beach Qantas announced that our flight to Japan was eligible to be rerouted. We spent a day on the phone and had multiple visits to the Qantas booking office and finally managed to reroute our flight back to Thailand and out of harms way. We were really looking forward to visiting Japan but understand now is not a good time to visit - we’ve been communicating with our friends in Japan that we had planned to visit and continue to wish them all the best and their country a speedy recovery. We found Townsville a little disappointing as the Lonely Planet had made it sound lovely but we found it quite boring. On our second day we walked up to the man made beach. 45 minutes later we were dripping in sweat (it was SO humid) and we were stood over a bone-dry swimming pool. We spent the day on the beach but had to use the beaches showers to cool down every 30 minutes as it’s currently stinger season (most beaches on the NE coast are out-of-bounds due to the stingers & sharks). North East Australia has had the worst wet season “since records began” (a phrase we’re growing tired of hearing). Due to the storms & showers there has been serious flooding up here and the road connecting Townsville & Cairns has been closed since November and it rarely opens for longer than an hour. We decided we wouldn’t risk booking a bus in case we didn’t get through so we pushed the boat out and flew up to Cairns.

We’ve really enjoyed Cairns, we’ve been here for two nights so far and the weather has been great. Yesterday we took a boat out and visited the Great Barrier Reef (yet another World Heritage site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World). It was spectacular and we were both totally blown away by the coral and fish. We snorkelled at two reefs and saw sting rays, reef sharks, pristine beautiful coral and thousands of bright coloured fish of all shapes & sizes. At one point we got a little too adventurous and found ourselves beached right in the middle of a huge reef with no apparent way of getting out. The coral & fish looked like something straight out of a BBC documentary, like an underwater rainforest teaming with life. There were giant clams and I saw one that was big enough to have eaten a full grown man! We visited a tiny sand island called Machaelmas Cay which was totally stunning and home to thousands of birds and turtles who lay their eggs there. We bought a disposable underwater camera but it’s too expensive to develop over here so we’ll do it when we arrive in Bangkok and upload them to the blog. We took a few snaps above water on our digital camera too so you can see some photos of us in our rather embarrassing stinger suits! It was an amazing day and one of the highlights of our whole trip. We met some great people, had perfect weather conditions and saw so much amazing marine life. So we fly to Thailand tomorrow, Neil will give you our next update from there! x