Great Barrier Reef blog

In March 2019, we visited the North Eastern coast of Australia, most notability the Great Barrier Reef. March is a great time to visit Australia because they are just going into fall, but the weather is still good. Getting there from the US is a challenge, but we managed it with a 9 year old!

Getting there
Getting to Australia is not easy feat from Florida. We got a great deal on flights from Miami with United. There are currently no direct flights so we had to get to Australia via the west coast of the US either LA or San Fran. Our United flight went via San Fran. Make sure you leave enough time for connections, I always suggest 2 hours. We then connected through Sydney. Total flight time from the West coast approximately 16 hours. Add that to the almost 6 hours from Miami, and you are looking at around 23 hours with layovers. That’s not including time it takes to check-in on departure and clear customs on arrival. In total that’s about amount 4 hours so you are looking at around 27 hours. Add in travel time to and from the airport and that 30 hours plus. So be ready for the long journey, but it’s well worth it as we’ll talk about below. Drink plenty of water, and if you can, get access to airport lounges it is a life saver.

We had a day on either side of our trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Sydney. Sydney is an amazing city, and I could spend a week just looking around there alone. As we were here just last year, we didn’t spend much time here this trip. But there are so many things so see and do. We did spend one day at the nearby Blue Mountains. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Sydney, and you can either rent a car, or there are tour buses that do day trips. There are 4 experiences you can do once you get there.

The Scenic railway, takes you down the side of the cliff. It is in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest railway in the world. The ride takes you down to Jamison valley, where you can walk around the Scenic walkway. The raised walkway takes you through an amazing temperate rainforest, once the site of a coal mine. Once we had enjoyed looking at the plants and animals that can be found in the valley, we returned to the top via the Scenic cableway. At the top we took the Scenic Skyway, this gave us the best viewing of the famous Three Sisters rock formation, the vast Jamison valley and maintains beyond. Well worth a visit if you are in Sydney.

Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach is a small beach town On Northern Queensland's Whitsunday Coast. We flew from Sydney to Whitsunday (Proserpine) Coast Airport, and rented a car from there. This small airport is out in the middle-of-nowhere and we saw kangaroos hopping access the runway. Our main reason for going to Airlie Beach was to cruise out to Whitsunday Island.
We chose to use Ocean Rafting for this and they did an amazing job!! They have a number of different tour options. We chose the Southern Lights tour, which includes beach time and snorkeling. Our first surprise was that we needed to rent singer suits. These full body suits protect you from the deadly jellyfish. Apparently these jellyfish are almost invisible to the human eye, but deadly if you are stung. The jellyfish season runs from around November to May in Tropical North Queensland. Our first stop was at a small reef north of the Whitsunday Island. There, we were able to drop anchor and snorkel for about an hour. The sights were amazing. We saw fish of all colors, a giant clam and many different coral formations. Our next stop was on Whitsunday Island. First we hit the look out where the view is amazing. The contrasting colors of the white sand, and the blue-green water make it a sight to be seen. I can see why it’s one of the most photographed places in the world. We took a short boat ride down the beach and ate lunch and had a little beach time. Our trip concluded with a fast boat ride back to Airlie Beach. An amazing day and a definite must do! Great job Ocean Rafting!

On our way to Cairns, we stopped at Billabong Sanctuary near Townsville. It was a great way to see all kinds of Australian native wildlife. They have a great crocodile show. You can feed Kangaroos and hold a Koala, what more do you need?

Cairns seems like a very multicultural city. There are lots of different restaurants and areas to explore. We did a Great Barrier Reef snorkeling tour with SeaStar. As there was a cyclone recently, we didn’t see as much as we had hoped. We did get some good viewing of the barrier reef, and lots of wonderful colors and fish. We also were able to get some good viewing of the reef on their glass bottom boat. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience.