- If you’re going to be diving at the Great Barrier Reef, be careful of the timing, because most companies require that you don’t fly for at least 24 hours after diving to avoid decompression sickness.
- Eat: Tim Tams, Vegemite
- Stay: Cairns Plaza Hotel (affordable ocean view rooms)
- Take the ferry from Sydney harbor to Manly beach to explore the beach, restaurants, and shops. Once in Manly, take a surfing lesson, go on a hike to Fairfax Lookout, or relax on the beach. There’s a fast and slow ferry, so look out the timetable to choose the right one for you.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Sydney Bridge Climb! If you’re on a budget, you can take the ferry from Circular quay to Luna Park, explore the area a little, then walk back across the bridge.
I wish I could have spent more time in each of the places we stayed in Australia. Cairns is great, but 2-3 days should be sufficient if your main reason for visiting is to dive at the Great Barrier Reef. We only had about 12 hours in Sydney on a long layover, but that was enough time to hit the highlights of the city without feeling too rushed. I instantly fell in love with the city, its vibe, and beauty.
The rest of our stay in Australia was spent visiting a friend in the western part of the country near Perth. Though it’s not typically a tourist destination, we had a great time enjoying the rural countryside (kangaroos in the wild!) and the great beaches. It was a great taste of what it’s like to be a local in Western Australia.