Best Break Ever Part 6: Just another day in paradisePosted: May 18, 2011
Remember how I said two of my favourite days in Australia so far took place in Cairns? Well, you already read about the first one. This post is about the second one.
As I mentioned before, I had the privilege of spending some time in Cairns with Ariana. She spent the first two days on an overnight reef tour, but on the third day, we finally got a chance to explore together. We flipped through brochures for trains through the rainforest, ferries to deserted islands, etc. However, both of us were low on cash, and spending the day relaxing on the beach was beginning to sound better and better. With the help of the very friendly receptionist at our hostel, we found a bus that would take us to Palm Cove, a beach about an hour north of Cairns, for the very budget-friendly price of $10 per round trip ticket. We packed our sunscreen and swimsuits and prepared ourselves for some serious relaxation.
The bus ride took us into quiet neighbourhoods, along the sandy coastline, and through gently billowing fields of sugar cane. When we arrived at Palm Cove, we noticed the beach’s swimming area was enclosed by a frame of netting.
On most beaches in Australia, red and yellow flags indicate swimming areas that are theoretically free of dangerous things like rip currents and sharks. In this part of the country, more drastic measures are necessary because the water is apparently infested by jellyfish and crocodiles and who knows what else. That’s Australian beaches for you–they look gorgeous, but one wrong move and you’re the top headline on the Sydney Morning Herald.
Swimming in the netted area was like floating in a salty pool. It was warm, the sandy bottom was remarkably smooth, and the waves were as gentle as a lake’s. The sea salt lightly coated my lips instead of rushing into my mouth like it inevitably does at most ocean beaches. We floated in the water for a while, and I swam a few laps just because I could.
We took a wander down the beach. The sandy was gradually replaced by dark, wet rocks. Some were made smooth by the waves. Others were bowl-shaped, collecting water in their shallow depressions. A few crabs scuttled out from underneath them as we walked by. That was pretty cool. We walked until the rocky, sandy beach tapered off into a pointy cliff consisting of large, porous rocks.
On the way back, we saw a watercraft rental stand and abstractly considered the possibility of renting a kayak and doing something productive. Then we got ice cream cones for lunch.
We ate them while walking around the neighbourhood, which basically consists of one quiet two-lane street running parallel to the beach. We passed people in fancy beach clothes. I think some people were getting married somewhere. Palm Cove is an upscale resort town, full of quietly luxurious hotels and unpretentious beachfront restaurants. I got the impression it’s a place where Aussies go on holiday. It was nice. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to afford to actually stay there.
After our little walk, we actually did rent the kayak. It took us about 30 minutes to paddle out to an island near the beach. The water was incredibly calm, so the ocean paddle was easy, and the views were gorgeous.
There was a private resort on the island (speaking of places I’d love to stay), so we were only allowed to go up to the high tide line. Still, that was enough for us.
The island was perfectly silent except for the calls of various birds in the trees. There were no other people in sight. The beach was covered in seashells and coral pieces of all shapes, sizes, and colours. My feet didn’t appreciate it, but I couldn’t stop staring down at the ground–well, except when I looked up to stare at the ocean view. Ariana and I collected a few pieces of coral, but when we got back to the kayak rental stand, we were informed that it’s illegal to take stuff from beaches in Australia. Oh. I guess that would explain why this beach had so many pieces of coral and shells on it. I didn’t want to be “that person,” so I took a photo of my treasures and released them back into the ocean.
We forced ourselves to leave the island eventually, since we were paying for the kayak rental by the half hour. The wind had picked up and the trip back was a little rough, but we made it.
After returning the kayak, we spent a few more hours relaxing in the water before catching a bus back to Cairns as the sun was setting. I arrived back at the hostel sun-drenched and covered in sand, said goodbye to Ariana, and boarded a shuttle to the Cairns airport for my 11 p.m. flight to Auckland.
As the shuttle pulled away, I realised I’d left a piece of my heart in the ocean side of Queensland. What a beautiful day.