Cairns (plus Sydney) – a quick getaway, and no kids!

There has been a slight lack of blog posts lately. Something about little travel and way too much busyness with 3 kids. Maybe life will get less crazy-busy when they all grow up and leave home?

In the meantime I’ve been taking plenty of photos but have barely got them off the camera. Let alone edited or posted them! I have however managed to put together a few from our late March getaway to Cairns. It was Anto and my 15th wedding anniversary. We had been lucky enough to celebrate our wedding anniversary in many fabulous locations across the world in previous years, but with international borders still shut that wasn’t going to be a 2021 luxury! On the upside the grandparents had kindly offered to kiddy-wrangle for 5 days so we could embark on a domestic adventure and our longest ever kid-free time in our almost 10 years of parenthood…… At least we weren’t in lockdown like the previous year!

A string of kid, sport and work commitments meant we couldn’t be away for our actual anniversary but a few days later it was my birthday. So, we planned on some fun with the kids, and family, to celebrate. Followed by an early morning departure the next day for our trip North. Birthday and kid craziness meant we only finished packing about midnight. I was then woken by a frantic Anto at 6am, informing me our direct flight to Cairns had been cancelled at 4am, and we were rebooked through Melbourne leaving in about 90 minutes. Cue frantic phone calls to get grandparents over earlier, and quick goodbyes to still sleeping kids, who had planned to see us off at a much more reasonable hour.

Luckily we made it to the airport in time and we were quickly in the air to Melbourne. The opposite direction to our final destination, but just grateful we had a flight that would get us in to Cairns not too much later than originally planned.

Despite our easy direct fight from Canberra to Cairns being changed to us going via Melbourne, it was a relatively stress free trip, once we got over the heart-starter of a morning with the cancellation and last minute rush. Soon we were in a cab and on the way to the Hilton for 4 nights. We’d picked up a luxury escapes deal including executive lounge access, a room on the top floor and nightly drinks and canapes.

The hotel was right near the marina, and our room did indeed have a magnificent view. We also didn’t have to worry about squeezing cots and rollaway beds in. Oh the luxury!

The balcony looked over the marina and the path to the esplanade, so plenty of time for people watching and great views on the often rather inclement weather we struck!

On the upside we dodged all the cyclones but we did have a few storms and some pretty impressively strong winds during our stay. Luckily we didn’t really have anywhere to be, so watching storms from our balcony, watching movies and drinking wine wasn’t the worst way to spend time….

Our night views were also pretty good…..

We had quite the musical accompianment with flocks of rainbow lorikeets hanging out in the palm trees below our balcony, entertaining us with the songs and antics.

The bats were also a novelty for us southerners. We all know now that you can’t trust bats these days, but they were fun to watch fly over en-masse.

Our nightly canapes and drinks were pretty good. Due to covid-safe measures there was no buffet but the lovely staff were happy to bring out endless serves of anything you wanted. So, there was definitely no shortage of food. The selection of canapes was different in all our 4 nights and the wines and G&Ts were pretty good too!

Without kids to worry about feeding we had our nice hotel breakfast (complete with coffees not interrupted by needing to take a toddler to the toilet or get kids ready for school) and then feasted on canapes before heading out to dinner at adult o’clock!

We did of course fill in the long stretch between breakfast and 5pm canapes with cocktails by the pool.

The weather might have been a bit a bit breezy for lengthy lazing in the water, and the cocktails not the best we’ve ever had, but undeterred we tried a few and still enjoyed some reading time by the pool.

When we weren’t hanging around the hotel there were plenty of awesome walks along the esplanade to be had. It was a short walk down the marina and a pleasant stroll down the esplanade checking out the views and water.

It was rather scenic even when stormy!

We didn’t end up swimming in the esplanade lagoon, but commented that the kids would have adored it if they had of been with us. It did look quite pleasant late at night as we were wandering back from dinner……

We took advantage of the lack of kids by having a day out to the outer Great Barrier Reef, diving and snorkelling. It had been 10 years since our last GBR diving trip, when I was whale-sized and 6.5 months pregnant with Astrid. We chose Down Under Cruise and Dive for our trip, and picked what we hoped was the best weather day of our limited days available for diving. It was still predicted to be rather windy but we did avoid rain!

Unfortunately the lockdown in Brisbane had resulted in a mask-mandate being introduced for all of Queensland. This took affect on our second day in Cairns and meant that not only did we have to wear masks in the hotel, it was also required on the dive boat, 40km off-shore and 1700km from Brisbane where the covid-cases were. The dive boat staff weren’t happy but we were at least glad we could still go, as inconvenient as it was wearing a mask for all the time bar eating, drinking or being in the water.

The high-winds meant plenty of swell and a rather rough trip out. I usually escape seasickness and felt fine, unlike most of the boat. Anto was also fine on the way out, although the back deck was littered with seasickness casualties so we spent most of our time inside masked up. The views outside were wonderful but the wind was so strong we could barely stand up!

Anto enjoyed his 3 dives and saw plenty of great fish and got a cuddle from a turtle. I had good snorkels in the 2 different locations. As an experienced snorkeler (and not having to keep an eye on kids) I covered plenty of distance and the array of fish, including big ones was as impressive as previous outings to the outer-reef. The coral bleaching was unfortunately evident compared to our previous trips over the past 20 years and is rather sad to see.

Despite the rather appalling weather, it was again great to be on the reef and I hope to return with the kids one day soon. The trip back was even windier and rougher and I again wasn’t the least bit sick but I think the puke-rate was up to about 90% of the boat by the time we made it back. The mask requirement wasn’t helping most people! All in all a good day out and we wished we had time for more reef adventures.

The luxury of being able to go out to dinner without kids or worrying about babysitters meant we had a some great dinners out. Two fantastic Japanese meals and a great seafood restaurant on the esplanade where Anto got to eat his body-weight in sea-creature.

I’m pretty nice and let him indulge, despite there generally being average vegetarian pickings. We did luck out with this one and had the best cocktails and the most amazing ravioli I’d had in a long time. If only we hadn’t of filled up on so many canapes before dinner 😉 The kids would have loved the tanks full of fish all through the restaurant too!

For one night we’d booked dinner at the Cairns aquarium. Our early pre-booking of a table meant we got an awesome one right in front of the giant aquarium, and had constant fish, ray and shark entertainment during our meal. The food was nice, if not quite as good as some of our other very good meals but the views were definitely the best!

All that food meant we had to walk off our meals. There were plenty of easy strolls around the esplanade and marina to work off a few of the calories.

The marina did provide plenty of big boats to check out. Soren would have been in heaven!

We almost got caught in storms a couple of times, but made it back to the hotel bar just in the nick of time. Tropical weather can’t be trusted it would appear 🙂

After 4 lovely days in Cairns we had an afternoon flight to Sydney. We’d decided to splurge with a points upgrade to business class for the flight. Without kids to wrangle business is definitely more relaxing so we took advantage and our only complaint was the flight was too short 🙂

In the never-ending saga of changes to travel arrangements for this trip (every flight was changed/cancelled multiple times) and then our Sydney hotel was turned into a quarantine hotel a few days before we departed. This meant we were moved to a hotel in the city, a slight inconvenience with the luggage, but we made the most of it with a walk around Darling Harbour and Barangaroo in the afternoon. After the windy and stormy weather in Cairns, Sydney really turned it on for us with beautiful sunshine and no wind and a picture perfect day!

We walked for so long that we couldn’t be bothered going back to our hotel to get changed for a nice dinner out. We stumbled across an amazing place a street back from the more upmarket dining at Barangaroo and had the best cocktails and one of our favourite meals of the trip. Luckily we had a decent walk back to our hotel to work a bit of it off. One last night of indulgence before back to the small humans and reality the next day……..

Ever thankful we hadn’t booked the super-early flight into Canberra it was pretty quiet on the trains into the airport. The airport was rather busy though with school holiday and Easter long weekend (it was Good Friday). Everyone was taking advantage of being able to travel (at least domestically) this Easter, rather than being at home like 2020!

We made it home safe and sound. The kids hadn’t missed us too much. Well at least not the big 2…. and Miss Zinnia was easily distracted by Granny and enjoyed our video chats. Grandparents may have been in need of a good rest and an early night but everyone survived, and we definitely enjoyed our kid-free break!

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