Australia – Part 1 – Cairns to Agnes Water

So I have decided to break Australia down into multiple posts because there is SO much to share and frankly it’s just easier this way . Overwhelming otherwise. I mean it ended up being nearly 3 months after we added the return to Mojo Surf Academy.

We are back in Thailand now – sorry for the delay. . We were, well, busy having fun . Ha

I also apologize if this is a bit messy. . I don’t have as good editing abilities on my iPad and Lane’s laptop is on the Fritz. As in broken . Yikes!


First of all, let’s talk pronunciation. CANS. Like cans of beans. Many town names in Australia look complicated and hard to pronounce. Some are. Most of the time though, the pronunciation is simplified compared to the spelling. Australians don’t waste energy on complicated or long  pronunciations. Football becomes footie. Breakfast is brekky.  Kindergarten is kindy.  Parmesan like chicken Parmesan is parmie. The list goes on

Our arrival in Cairns (cans) was mostly uneventful. We took a taxi to get our rental car and the driver was very engaging. We laughed at how awful I will be trying to drive on the left side of the road. He said I will be fine just follow the cars, that I might struggle a bit going the ‘other way’ around a ‘roundabout’. I asked ‘are there many roundabouts?’. Uh Yeah!!……. He was NOT kidding – there was a roundabout at like EVERY INTERSECTION!!

At our place in Cairns, we mostly recovered. It had been a long way travelling (12 hours in the Singapore airport alone!) and I was still recovering from my sickness. Lane must have been fighting it too.

I did some cooking, which was great because the grocery store had all the familiar foods from home. Including rotisserie chicken (with STUFFING!) and sour cream, which we had missed terribly. And I was able to make some of our favorite recipes from home.

While recovering, I also did some last minute ‘tweaks’ to our travel plans. I had booked places with full flexibility so I checked for ‘better’ accommodations and in some cases found great deals. I even changed a location or two, with some advice from our hostess (asking based on Airbnb availability- which is better, X or Y place). That’s how I ended up in Trinity Beach and Magnetic Island. Two of my favorite places.

After a few nights in Cairns, we moved ourselves about 45 minutes north to Trinity Beach. We had the most adorable little igloo cabin right across from the beach. This area was beautiful! Unfortunately, like all of the northern coast of Australia at this time of year, swimming in the ocean could only be done inside the ‘stinger nets’, as deadly stinging ‘jellyfish’ like the box jellyfish and man-of-war are present (even common) during the warmer (5-6) months of the year. We also had a pool,though, so no worries!

In Trinity, we spent a bit of time walking the beach, and we visited a local hike/park a bit inland called Crystal Cascades. It’s an uphill hike along stream with swimming holes and waterfalls. It’s basically in the rainforest, so very tropical and full of beautiful plants and trees. We really enjoyed (though were a bit freaked out by) the fish that swam with us in the swimming hole. They would basically SWARM around us. We learned later, when we tossed them some of our tortilla wrap, that they must be used to humans being a source of food. HA Literally. At one point, one fish tried to bite a birthmark on my thigh. HA. Scared the bejesus out of me. HA!

These slow motion videos of the fish are pretty cool. Seeing them flip out of the water. They varied in size from small, like your palm, to about the length of my forearm.

fish movie 1


We must have started feeling better because we managed to take a scuba trip. Yes to the Great Barrier Reef! Not only did we have a great time and see some great stuff but we also met some great people!



Also while staying in Trinity Beach, we took a day to visit the Daintree Rainforest. That was an adventure of a drive. There’s no real highway driving in Australia, not in the north anyway. The driving can be very scenic though. A ‘WOW that’s beautiful’ at nearly every turn on this drive. Truly amazing. Once you get far enough north, to the town of Daintree, you take a car ferry – all of about 100 feet across a river- shortest ferry ride ever – to get to Cape Tribulation. And the drive from there gets even more interesting. It’s two small lanes surrounded on both sides (and sometimes from above) with beautiful, huge trees and other foliage. It feels very ‘Indiana Jones-like’.

We took one of the many marked walks in the area, and saw lots of cool trees and plants, also a huge (but dead) spider, which almost made Lane turn back. HA. And then a gorgeous green snake. Lane saw him on the side of the path and stopped us. He started to slither away, off the boardwalk and into the sand and greenery. I started to walk slowly toward it again, and he reared up. Lane said “Mom, that means he’s not happy. I think you should back off.” Well, thank you captain obvious. HA.







On the way back from the walk, I decided to stop on the side of the road (there was a LITTLE shoulder and hardly any cars), to check out the beach and the view. I’m telling you the entire way was so picturesque, but so much greenery you couldn’t really see without climbing up/down through it. So that’s what we did. We climbed about 10 feet down to the beach and it was amazing. I have to imagine this is what they call a shale beach. It was like instead of sand, there were smooth black and grey stones covering the beach. And then some huge formations of rock that looked like slate. When I was a kid, some sidewalks and walkways were made of slate. This structure looked like HUGE slabs of that, lined up on their edge and shoved into the ground, vertically. They were all about 1-2” wide and stacked together. Very unique in my experience. Anyway, we climbed, we took photos, and were on our way. It was really cool. I mean, NO ONE ELSE was around.



On the way back from the Daintree rain forest we saw a lookout and there were two guys paragliding off a cliff. Very cool!



The next day we were off to Magnetic Island. To get there we drove a couple/few hours south along the coast. Like most of the driving north of Brisbane, we drove on A1, which reminds me of Route 40 in NJ. It’s a variety of farmland, with small towns scattered in between. So LOTS of sugar cane (and cute signs warning of the Cane Train), followed by a traffic light or slow speed area.

We drove south to Townsville at which time we were scheduled on a car ferry to take us to the island. This was my 2nd ferry of my life. And the 2nd one in 2 days. HA

Magnetic Island (known as Maggie to the locals) is a lovely resort town. It’s a mountainous island with lots of lookouts and beautiful beaches. I would definitely call it more on the sleepy side. Not a lot of partying or anything (though there is a hostel and lots of young people come and make their own fun).

On Magnetic island, we enjoyed the pub nearby where we met some locals. The pub had good food, great beer and pool. It was also right on the beach near these AMAZING HUGE trees. I tried to capture them in photographs but they just don’t do it justice. There were vines hanging down that kids would swing from. Very very cool.



I was also WAY overdue for a haircut so I asked a young woman bartender and she recommended the place next door. I managed to get an appointment the next day which was great luck because they were extra busy. Their lease had been terminated and they were getting ready to shut and take a year to explore Australia with their kids! HA. Awesome.

Lane and I had planned a scuba trip from Magnetic Island, and had hoped to do some snorkelling, but both were no-gos because of the weather. It was sunny but very windy. The scuba trip was a few hours out by boat so it was too rough to get there. It’s a shame it was supposed to be one of the best dives in Australia. A wreck dive. Youngala Wreck. I guess I will have to go back some day. HA!

The things I enjoyed most at Magnetic Island were the rock wallabies which you can see at the old ferry pier. There are some cool rock formations there that lead into the water. The wallabies live there and you can see them and even feed them. We brought some lychees but they didn’t like those. Fortunately, we ran into a group of young men who gave us a carrot. They definitely liked that! Lane fed a mom with a baby in it’s pouch. SO cool.



Side story about the lychees. When we were driving in Queensland we kept seeing signs for lychees. I had no idea what they were, and I wanted to get some fruit (usually mangoes, which are in season and HUGE and GREAT here) so we stopped at a roadside stand. I asked what Lychees were and they looked at me like I was crazy. You don’t know? I don’t think so I said, unless its a different word for something that I have had (which happens sometimes). The woman gave me one and I said ‘just eat it?’ It had a leathery prickly looking skin so I was skeptical. She said yeah! I started to take a bite and she said ‘no you have to take the skin off’. Ha. People in line laughed good-naturedly with me. I peeled it with my teeth and fingers and it was a white translucent wet-looking thing. Like the inside of a big grape. I ate it, spat out the seed. It was AMAZING, so I bought a kilo. HA. At least I amused them with my stupidity. HA.

A day or two later, still on Maggie, I walked the Forts walk (part of it anyway) where I had heard I might spot a koala sleeping in the trees. I was walking rather slowly, looking up and through the trees. Several people passed me, walking back to the carpark. One couple stopped and asked if I was looking for koalas. YES! Well, they said, there are some up ahead about 100 meters. One with a baby. WOW. They also said I probably wouldn’t miss it. There are other people there and someone had drawn an arrow on the ground. HA! OK then! I walked a little faster and did see a few people looking into a tree, where a koala was surprisingly close to the path and close to the ground! I could not only have touched him/her (which I didn’t) but I could have LICKED him/her, they were so close. HA. And sleeping.




I walked further and saw the mama and baby, and another adult. Up close you can see they have some pretty vicious looking claws. Lots of people, myself included, got up close for pictures and selfies. The koalas were mainly asleep but the first one I saw woke up, looked around and rearranged himself before going back to sleep. He was not at all concerned with the people there. Within like a few feet of him! HA. YAY! Koala sighting DONE! Koala SELFIE DONE! I can go home now. Just kidding.

That evening, I took my fishing pole and drove down a long, forbidden, dirt road to a supposedly very remote place for fishing from the beach. When I got there, there were lots of people there for the sunset. It was very pretty but I didn’t catch anything. HA. I did meet some friendly local guys, also fishing, but it was getting dark and they were packing up, so I did too.

Here are some other random pics from Maggie










That was about it for Maggie. We took the ferry back and headed to Airlie Beach!

We arrived in Airlie and checked into our Airbnb. It was a little tough to find, but we managed, and it was up a very steep driveway. The place was absolutely gorgeous though. The owners are French and they have their main house, plus this separate house, and a detached garage on their property, which faces the harbour area of Airlie Beach, and backs to a park or nature preserve of some kind. Everything about this place was great. It was all wood, inside and out, and decorated with a mix of styles including some Asian, French, and others. It was beautiful. Also, there were lots of windows and French doors that opened with no screens so even being inside it felt like outside. Great for me. Not so great for arachnophobia Lane. HA. Plus, the master bedroom was upstairs, away from the main part of the house, via steps outside. I have to admit I was a little freaked out making this trip at night. But, we survived.

In Airlie, we looked around downtown. Had a nice dinner where we met Steve, from Melbourne, who Kindly invited us to his house for Australia Day, since we would be arriving into Melbourne from Tasmania on that day. Australia Day is like the 4 th of July for the US. It’s a big BBQ day in a country BIG on BBQ’s, so I can’t wait to see what this is going to be like. HA!

Speaking of BBQs  – I noticed that most picnic and park areas where you would see a picnic bench -much more often than in the US -you would also see a public BBQ! Very cool.  These are publicly available during reasonable hours and I think gas powered though they are more griddle than grill. A flat smooth surface for cooking .  And they are in the best spots  near the beach by the water. Gorgeous! This is a common theme in Australia  That the best beach spots are for everyone to share. Camping and caravan parks near the ocean  beaches that are national parks  that cannot be built upon.

We did a couple fun things in Airlie. We learned how to wakeboard !! What? Yup. It was awesome. It was just Lane and I taking the lesson so it was done on a wave runner. Of course Lane wanted me to go first so I did. It took me a few tries but I managed to get up eventually.   Lane struggled a bit at first too and had to take a break but when he got up, he was SO AWESOME. Our instructor said he was a natural  I think his surfing and skateboarding ability gave him the edge.

Also, we went on a fishing trip. Whoo boo!  I booked a smaller boat. A center console similar to Rosebud. The captain picked us up in his truck and we drove to the ramp  he put the boat in and we headed to a nearby island to pick up the other fisherman. Funny story. When we first arrived at that island for a beach pickup (no dock) the older (German) man said it must be the wrong boat…. because he saw women on board. He was looking for his FISHING boat…HA! Well, we showed him! We out-fished him by far. He was anxious to take home some fish, I could tell. So he was keen on my big grouper and even asked me what I plan to do with it. I said “share it with you, of course”. Ha. A magnificent day and a great fishing captain.

Our main mission in Airlie was to take our trip on the liveaboard sailing and scuba boat, Kiana. We were to spend two nights on the boat, visit the Whitsundays, and the Great Barrier Reef. The trip on Kiana was great. It was a bit too much ‘instruction’ for me the first few days. Here’s how you eat, here’s how you take care of your assigned mug, don’t do this, don’t put on sunscreen here, don’t eat there, etc. Plus I was a little irritated that I had asked for a private area for us to sleep (teenager, you know) and we got pretty much the most public space. People had to walk past us to get to the head (bathroom). Lane dealt with it surprisingly well, though. It was annoying getting dressed in the bathroom. Especially after a shower. There’s no shower stall, as is normal for a boat, so you’re standing where you showered. It’s all very wet and humid. Plus, I had been told we would have AC but we didn’t… (eye roll). Whatever.

The people on the boat were very nice. A family from Australia, one from England. Some extended family from France. Another couple from I don’t remember where. HA.

The first day at Whitsunday was great, but I was really on the trip for the diving. Whitsunday is a white sand island and it’s known for its views and sightings of rays and sharks in the shallows. The view was gorgeous, and we swam as well which was beautiful once we got past the idea that we had to wear stinger suits. HA. We saw a ray swim past us. And the water was insanely clear with completely white sand so it was truly like a pool.

The diving the next morning was terrible. I think they took us to a place that was very safe and easy in order to check everyone’s skills and get some ‘rusty’ divers reacclimated. The visibility was terrible. I think we saw a lobster and a moray eel. Pretty cool, but not amazing. I think the best sights might have been the travalli and the bat fish that lingered under the boat. HA. Oh well. That was the ‘free’ dive anyway.

Then we headed out to the GBR, and did another dive. MUCH better. HA. I was hoping to see sharks or turtles but we didn’t. We did see lots of fish and some sea slugs (which are quite beautiful). That night we went to bed, and woke up on the GBR. No other boats or land in sight. It was pretty special. I even saw the sun rise, which was beautiful.

Diving that day was much better. We saw lots of fish, nudibranchs, a sting ray, and a turtle. We saw the turtle up pretty close actually. When I first spotted it, it was below me so I grabbed Lane and pointed it out to him then dropped down. The turtle was so afraid at first it tried to hide under a small cliff but it was definitely too big. I backed off and it relaxed and just chilled there, looking at all the divers. After a while it swam away. Very cool.

I have some pictures and videos from the dive but at the moment no way to upload them here.

Around midday we sailed back to Airlie Beach. It was a beautiful ride back.

Cruise Control

When we got back to land we stopped back at the airbnb to pick up our food and drop off their towels, and we were OFF. It was a long way to Agnes Water (and Town of 1770) so we stopped part way at a place called Mackay. A nice stay ‘along the way’ at an airbnb that was basically the first floor of someone’s house. We had leftovers for dinner, and eggs for breakfast, and had a great sleep. And we were on our way again.

Arriving at our place in Agnes Water, it was a little bit remote, which I thought it would be. An actual B&B, in fact, called Hideaway. The owner and hostess Jen and I got along great and spent some fun hours talking by the pool and on the porch. Jen was a model when she was younger and I’ve seen some of the pictures. WOW. She is now married to a man from South Africa (where Jen is also from, and where they lived together for several years). This style is obvious in the B&B, which is so wonderfully, and tastefully decorated with an African flavour. Gorgeous. While in Agnes Water, we rented Lane a surfboard and he surfed an entire day. It was the first surfing he has done in quite a while. Agnes Water seems to be the ‘sweet spot’ where there is some surf, but yet there is still access to the GBR, the southernmost point – Lady Musgraves I think it’s called. And not much threat of stingers. We didn’t stay long, we were on our way to Surfers Paradise to celebrate Christmas! We did meet a lovely couple from the U.K. and we spotted wallabies, a huge iguana, and a kangaroo while we were there! Right outside the B&B. Very cool.

Amazing scallops at Agnes Water – Cody’s Cafe. Just enough spice and a gorgeous presentation

Beautiful breakfast at the Hideaway.

Next stop Surfers Paradise!,