Have you ever had to wake up early in the morning for a relaxing holiday or had to watch a crocodile almost snatch someone’s hand? Sanaa thought this holiday was going to be a total drag, but she quickly discovered the magical beauty of far north Queensland.

By Sanaa Kapoor


Rex Sunset Lookout. Photo credit – Sanaa Kapoor


It was around three in the morning and I was wheeling my suitcase out of my bedroom. Yes, I am an early riser but this was a lot earlier than I would have imagined for a “relaxing holiday”. My plan was to go straight to bed as soon as we reached the hotel. My mum had decided to book the first flight of the day which was at 6am just so that we could explore. But obviously, I told her an early morning flight isn’t going to work, especially for our family. And, indeed, we were running late. We were literally the last people to board! Relaxing? I don’t think so.

I decided to skip breakfast back in Sydney so I was a little hungry on the plane to Cairns. I chose to have a ham and cheese toasty, and it was good. My parents had booked Jetstar for the flight and to be honest, I don’t like Jetstar. Don’t tell them I said so. However, I will admit, they did toast my ham and cheese toasty perfectly. Jetstar doesn’t have TVs for individual seats and my recommendation to them would be to install some! The flight was not that long – it was only three hours and we flew over the Great Barrier Reef!

I took many aesthetic photos on the flight. Some of them were of the clouds, the sunrise and the ocean when we reached Cairns. There were many shades of blues and green, from a nice turquoise on the beaches to darker blues as the water got deeper until it was an ultramarine, sapphire blue. I was expecting some of these colours and these views of the ocean, but they were all so much better in person.


Port Douglas, QLD, Australia

  • Went to Cairns often (1 hour drive from Port Douglas)
  • Drive to Cairns from Port Douglas is quite beautiful
  • 3 hour flight from Sydney to Cairns (direct flight)
  • 3 hour 20 minute flight from Melbourne to Cairns (direct flight)
  • 2 hour 20 minute flight from Brisbane to Cairns (direct flight)
  • 55 minute flight from Townsville to Cairns (direct flight)
  • 4 hour 27 minute drive from Townsville to Cairns (without any stops)
  • 20 hour drive from Brisbane to Cairns (without any stops)



Travelling on Jetstar from Sydney to Cairns.

Photo credit – Sanaa Kapoor


As soon as we had collected our luggage and hired a car, we decided to drive to the Cairns Aquarium because we couldn’t check-in to our hotel until after 2pm. At this point, I didn’t want to go to the aquarium because I was really tired and hangry. As soon as we stepped out of the airport, it was like a heat wave had bounced upon me! It was a good thing that my sister had reminded me to take of my jumper whilst we were still in the plane. The aquarium was in the city town centre of Cairns so it was only a 15-minute drive from Cairns Airport.

Once we got to the aquarium, it was very busy. Luckily, we could skip the long line because my mum had pre-booked tickets. The Cairns Aquarium reminded me a lot of the aquarium back in Sydney which I always go to. When we got inside, the aquarium had been lit up with beautiful colours from all the fish tank lights. I was quite tired and wasn’t paying that much attention. But from what I did see, Cairns Aquarium is definitely a hotspot to go to if you love sealife such as reef sharks, stingrays, reef fish and pufferfish.

Here is the cost for Cairns Aquarium according to the website:

The hotel that we were staying in was “The Oaks” and it was located in Port Douglas, which is about an hour drive from Cairns. I had decided to sleep on the way to the hotel and I was still tired when we reached The Oaks. As I was wheeling my suitcase alongside my day pack to the room we were staying in, I looked around and everything seemed quite modern, very neat and tidy and had a lovely scent in the villa.

We had our own pool, breakfast lounge, restaurant and a bar for a whole week! As soon as we got to our room, my sister and I figured out pretty quickly we sharing a room and parents were sharing a room too. It was a good idea to pack three swimmers because I did need them for the whole seven days I was there!

We met some friends down in Cairns at a restaurant called “Tha Fish”. It had been a long time since we’d seen them, so we all enjoyed ourselves. The food at the restaurant was fantastic and a lot of it was fresh seafood – which I love! It was that typical Modern Australian cuisine, while sitting by the sea.

In Port Douglas, there is a wide variety of choice of cuisine which is interesting given it is a smaller community than Cairns. You will find Spanish, Italian, Modern Australian, Thai and Mexican.

I had developed a bit of phobia of crocodiles over the time I was in Cairns, so I was really scared about going to the reef, especially because my mum wasn’t going. Considering it was one of the seven natural wonders of the world, I decided to go. It wasn’t everyday you could go to the Great Barrier Reef.  However, I was surprised by the end of the trip because I enjoyed myself and swam for at least three hours! On the day of the Great Barrier Reef trip, my sister, dad and I had to wake up at 5:30am and leave the hotel by 6:30am, in order to get to the reef terminal in Cairns for check-in between 7:15am-7:45am. We didn’t get there till 7:30am and we started boarding the boat around 7:45am shortly after check-in.

The company we went with was called Down Under Cruise & Dive. It was a full day adventure of snorkelling and scuba diving. You can only scuba dive if you are 12 years and over, but my dad and I decided not to go because we didn’t want to leave my sister out since she was under 12 years old. So, we decided to snorkel and have a look and the variety of sealife. I saw a lot of blue tangs, parrot fish and there was this slightly an unsettling fish which kept on bearing its teeth at me and boy it was scary! I knew it was completely harmless, but every time I saw it, I would rush back to the boat in fear.

The corals were all different colours. Some of them were maroon, rose, navy blue, mustard yellow and the seaweed was a green colour. But they all had one thing in common: the colours were all dull and I think I knew why. It was because of the effect of climate change and global warming. I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn’t realise that it was this damaged. Some of the coral was already dead, dull and grey and I was shocked to see it.

We went on the ‘Full Day Reef Tour From Cairns’ and the costs were:


On the boat out at the Great Barrier Reef.

Photo credit – Sanaa Kapoor


Another activity that we did as a family along with some family friends was Heartly’s Crocodile Adventures which 40 minutes north of Cairns and 25 minutes south of Port Douglas. Since I am petrified of crocodiles, I was thinking I was crazy to go there. Luckily, my mum was there with me on the day so that made me feel a lot better. As soon as we got there, I knew it was going to be full of crocodiles so I was almost going to faint, but as soon as I saw a crocodile and the distance I was from it, I knew that I was safe. There were quite a few things I did at Heartly’s:

  • I saw a croc named Beyonce
  • I held a baby croc who was a bit feisty
  • I found out that big male crocs don’t hesitate to eat their girlfriends
  • I also heard about the most venomous snake in Australia which is the brown snake
  • It was mostly crocodiles, but there were snakes, cassowaries and koalas

The costs for Heartly’s Crocodile Adventures:


Speaking of crocodiles, I actually got to see one in the wild on its own and probably wanting to eat me! Crocodiles must have a lot of self-control when croc tours are happening. My dad, mum, sis and I went to Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and Daintree Rainforest all in one day and boy we were all tired after we went on. The company we went with on the day was Daintree Discovery Tours. The Daintree Rainforest is huge. It is approximately 1200 square kilometres which is bigger than 13,000 football fields! The Daintree Rainforest is so huge that we went to different sections as well as Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge which shares a small part of the rainforest along the coastline. The Daintree Rainforest also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage–listed site.

We had to be out of the hotel and on the bus by 8:45am sharp to get our names marked off. We also had to choose our lunch and I chose my usual which was fish and chips. As soon as we got all of the boring stuff done, we could go on the bus. The bus was quite full and my sister and I decided to sit together while our parents sat together. We first headed up to Mossman Gorge and the drive was really long but worth it. We saw lots and lots and lots of sugar cane. Did you know that sugar cane farming provides more than 9,800 direct jobs in Queensland alone?

As soon as we reached Mossman Gorge, it was a whole new and different environment from the rest of Cairns. Mossman Gorge is part of the Daintree Rainforest and as soon as I stepped out I immediately felt a change in the environment. As I was staring up into the trees and the higher part of the canopy, I felt insignificant among the large areas of mother nature as if it was towering over me and all-powerful. As we were walking through the rainforest, there was some wide open areas and some enclosed and dark areas. In every part of the rainforest we walked through, we could hear birds and the sounds of a waterfall nearby. The wide open areas were beautiful and you could always see the blue sky and it was such an aesthetic sight to see which made me feel free. In the more enclosed parts of our bushwalk were buttress roots. The roots grow on trees and are like stranglers and once the tree log is completely gone, the roots have made a shape from the tree log. The idea of a tree killing another tree is quite brutal, and yet it was such a beautiful sight to see.

Shaded by the tall canopies of the Daintree Rainforest.

Photo credit – Sanaa Kapoor


Our next stop was the Daintree Rainforest where we took a crocodile boat tour. I was terrified when my mum told me that we were going on a crocodile tour, but did I have a choice? Of course I didn’t! The boat had at least two rows with four seats on each isle and it was more like a big tinny with glass windows and a roof covering the top. The tour guide we had gave us lots of interesting facts about the Daintree Rainforest like:

  • The Daintree Rainforest has glow in the dark plants
  • It is home to the only place on earth where two world heritage sites meet – Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef
  • The Daintree Rainforest is tens of millions of years older than Amazon Rainforest
  • Crocodiles are the only living dinosaurs that survived the asteroid until today

The part I loved about the Daintree Rainforest was Cape Tribulation and the lookout. It was the last stage of the tour after the crocodile boat tour and it was lovely just to see the horizon where the reef and the rainforest meet.

The coast for Daintree Discover Tours according to the website:


Taking in the breathtaking view of where the rainforest meets the reef at Cape Tribulation.

Photo credit – Sanaa Kapoor


Our last day was spent in Kurunda Village. There were many markets, stalls, wildlife sanctuaries and parks all over the place. We couldn’t do everything on that day because our flight was around 5:30pm in the evening so we had to be at the airport at least 3:30pm-4:00pm. We decided to keep it short and simple by going into the bird, koala and butterfly sanctuaries. We first started of with the butterfly sanctuary. Here are some facts about butterflies I bet you don’t know:

  • Butterflies live for one month, but some species can live up to one year
  • The receptors on a butterfly’s front legs allows them to taste and smell
  • Butterflies have compound eyes consisting of 1,200 mini eyes

Cost for Butterfly Sanctuary according to the website:

The next sanctuary we went to was the bird sanctuary. They had so many different varieties of birds such as cassowaries(which have been known to kill humans or even attack humans), finches, black swans, ducks, macaws and pink and white cockatoos.

Cost for Bird Sanctuary according to the website:

The last sanctuary we went to was the koala sanctuary. For the first time, I got to hold a koala! I was a bit scared I would drop it since I had never done it before, so I had my sister beside me just to have support and the koala’s fur was so soft and she was so cute too!

Cost for Koala Sanctuary according to the website:

  • Adults – $20.00
  • Child – $10.00
  • Family (2 adults + 2 children) – $50.00
  • Infant – Free

For further information, visit: https://www.koalagardens.com/

Snuggling and cuddling a koala.

Photo credit – Sanaa Kapoor



Overall, my holiday in Port Douglas and Cairns was great! I really enjoyed my time there and I think it was a great experience to have! One of the things I didn’t really enjoy about my trip was probably the crocodiles and the early mornings. But, on the other hand, I really enjoyed the Great Barrier Reef and hugging a koala. I think it was a great experience and I would love to go there again if I had the chance!