The real vacation started the next day when we went flew to Brisbane. I was scheduled to give a talk on the 9th at Queensland University of Technology, so we went a day early for exploring. There didn't seem to be a whole lot in that city, except a river and some gardens. It's not on the ocean, either, so they had to fashion a fake beach for people who like the sand and blue water.
Cairns (pronounced "cans"). For the most part, the weather there sucked. It was VERY windy and rainy and cloudy, except for one day that was very windy and sunny. We stayed on Trinity Beach, which caters mostly to self-contained apartments. We ended up in a family-run apartment building with a kitchen and grill and stuff -- it was nice to be able to cook for ourselves and save a few bucks. The meat we bought from a butcher tasted funny (seasonings), but the rest was great. I must say, the Great Barrier Reef is cool, as is most of the wildlife around northern Queensland.
Here's a synopsis of our stay:
Day 1: It's rainy. Visit downtown Cairns. Shop, that's all there is to do. Ate at a cool italian place where they bring the specials board to your table since there are too many to remember.
Day 2: Still rainy, go to Port Douglas, Daintree River. See a python, crocodiles, koalas, feed a cassowary.
Day 4: Rainy again, but last chance for a reef trip so we go. 2 meter swells in the sea, makes most of the people on the boat sick during the 2-hour trip to Michaelmas Cay. Reef is amazing (sunny!), we get a free upgrade to a better trip and free intro SCUBA dive because we pre-booked and nobody really wanted to go. Good food on the trip. I love motion sick pills.
Day 5: Check out of the apartment, go to Cairns and shop some more.
Then we flew back for some time in Wollongong and Sydney. More about that later.