For my New Years resolution last year I told myself, “Your goal should be to travel to 3 countries this year, if not every year.” And I somehow made that happen.
Because of our trip to Paris and my trip to St. Lucia, I decided that I wanted this blog to be somewhere where I can talk about my personal life, my creative work, and the places that I travel. Most photographers use their blogs to showcase weddings or work that they do, and that’s awesome (I stalk all of my favorite photographers blogs) but I don’t plan to blog much about weddings because I post enough about that on my other social media platforms. Instead, I kind of like to use this blog as an “online diary” that I can look back on when I’m older while also sharing it with you all. I’ve never been one to hide much from the public because I think life is worth sharing for the most part, so that’s why I like to write as much as possible to share as much as possible.
Our trip to Australia was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I know that’s a really overdone statement, but there’s no better way to describe it. I did more new things in one week there than I have done all year back home. And for all of you interested in traveling there, I’m going to offer as much detail as I can. Oh, and a huge thank you to Cameron Housley for helping us plan our entire trip! We couldn’t have done it without you.
My first tip to those of you flying to another country is to pack and prepare your own food, especially if you have dietary restrictions. Ryan and I went to Whole Foods and made sandwiches, packed tons of fruit, chips, and hummus to prepare us for the 30 hour flight. We made the mistake of eating airplane food one time and felt like crap as soon as we got to our destination and we didn’t want to risk it again this time. Also, another tip would is to be aware of the timezone you’re traveling to. I knew that while we were flying to Australia during the day that it was actually night time there, so I made sure to sleep and be as in sync with their timezone as much as I could.
For a 30 hour (technically 2 days with the time change) flight, it actually wasn’t that bad. We watched movies, read books, played Pokemon, ate food, and slept. It was basically my ideal day minus not having cats and hardly any leg room.
Quick little fun fact: Ryan and I are traveling to Cairns (/kanz/), Australia. This is in Queensland in the tropical region where the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, and Coral Sea are located.
When we finally arrived in Brisbane, Australia we found out that my luggage was still in Los Angeles and that they wouldn’t be getting it to me on that day. I REALLY wish I would have packed a spare set of clothes in my purse because the only clothing I had was the flats and dress I was in. I didn’t let it bother me though because they told me it would be there the next day (little did I know it would actually be 3 days before I saw my clothes again) so another tip would be to pack a spare set of clothes in your carry on in case this happens. I’m sure I’m the only person that doesn’t do this though.
After going through 2 hour security and having our luggage sniffed by a dog, we finally boarded our last plane to Cairns.
When we got there we immediately went to pick up our rental car. I had reserved this weeks before we left and I assumed everything was taken care of but nope. We quickly learned something about Australian culture that really confused me. In America, everyone is required by law that if you drive a car, you have to have insurance. But in Australia you do not have to pay for car insurance if you don’t want to. So for us to be 100% insured in case someone hit us we had to buy additional car insurance that ended up being $380 US dollars. Sooooo, that was fun.
Anyways, our first experience driving on the opposite side of the car and road was really crazy. I made Ryan do all of the driving because he’s usually way more cautious than I am and well, I’d probably kill us. He quickly got the hang of it though and we discovered that there is no stop signs in Cairns, just a lot of roundabouts to keep traffic constantly moving.
For the first 3 days we stayed at Amaroo Resort on Trinity Beach and really, really liked it. Even though we had to sit in a tiny corner of our hallway to get wifi, we had a beautiful view of the ocean from our balcony and we were in walking distance to a lot of local restaurants.
Once we got to our hotel we were almost immediately picked up by a model named Laura and she took us to Palm Cove to do a photo shoot on the beach. I was superrrrr excited about this considering I had never worked with a model in another country before and it ended up being wonderful. To view all of the images, go here.
Around 6:00 that night we started experiencing the jet-lag and it was coming fast. Before heading to dinner we decided to sit on the balcony, relax, and drink some of the wine that was given to us by another Australian model, Makana. That evening we ate at an Italian restaurant called L’Unico Trattoria Italiano and ordered vegan pumpkin pizza, salad, bruschetta, and of course potato wedges thanks to Ryan. It then started raining and I started falling asleep at the table so we drove back to our hotel, almost wrecked because Ryan forgot that we have to drive on the opposite side of the road, showered, and slept.
I was super excited about what we had planned for this day because it only involved driving around and searching for waterfalls.
If you go to Cairns, I really recommend doing the Waterfall Circuit. It’s such a cool way to see this part of the country because you get to drive around at your own pace and explore. The trip to the waterfalls is about an hour and a half away from Cairns, but they are all located close to one another. Also, I really recommend that you pack food before you go.
We started off by driving to a grocery store, The Healthy Hub, to pick up juices, fruits, snacks, and sandwiches since we would be out all day long.
After getting gas (which is $14 A LITER there) we headed towards the waterfalls and Wooroonooran National Park. The first waterfall we visited was Millaa Millaa and it was easily our favorite. It was easy to get to, had a beautiful view, and you could swim around it if you wanted to. The second waterfall we went to was Zillie which we had to hike 20 minutes down to (still in the same dress and flats since my luggage hadn’t arrived) and we had to jump across rocks just to get a full view of the waterfall. The last waterfall we visited was Ellinjaa. This waterfall was absolutely beautiful, especially when the sun rays came through it (currently the main picture for this blog post).
Again, I definitely recommend doing the waterfall circuit. Try to leave a bit earlier in the morning though so you have time to visit all 5 waterfalls. We weren’t able to get our start until around 11 and so we could only see 3 waterfalls since we were starting to feel the jet-lag approaching us by the time we went to Ellinjaa.
Driving back to Cairns was definitely interesting. We apparently drive too slow for the locals and it didn’t help that we were on the opposite side of the road driving down steep mountains for the first time. We finally made it back to our hotel though and drank wine on our balcony until it was time for dinner.
Bangkok Rose Thai Restaurant was in walking distance from our hotel so we went there, had coconut rice for the first time, really crappy wine, and then came back and fell asleep at 8:00.
Since we were still incredibly jet-lagged we had been waking up at 4:00am Australian time. It was still dark outside at this time so we would just sit on the balcony and eat apples and peanut butter with blankets wrapped around us. It was really relaxing to just sit in the dark and listen to the ocean before a day full of driving and activities. When the sun came out a few hours later we were greeted with a very vivid double rainbow right outside of our balcony. This was the second time this had happened to us while staying at our hotel and I’ve never been so close to a rainbow in my life. However, later during the day and week I would come to realize that seeing huge, colorful rainbows multiple times a day were just as common as ever in Cairns.
Once we left our hotel we set out for Skyrail and I was super excited. For those of you that are interested in traveling to Cairns, Skyrail is something I recommend doing. It’s a 4.6 mile scenic cableway that runs above the Barron Gorge National Park and it was the longest gondola cableway in the world when it was first completed. On the day we rode up it was foggy and rainy so it made the ride a little more interesting (you can see in the photos below) but on bright/sunny days you get gorgeous views the entire time you’re in your gondola.
When we got to the first stop (Red Peak Station) we explored the rainforest through a tour and learned more about the wildlife and plants in the Queensland area. The second stop (Barron Falls Station) was where you were able to see the huge Barron Falls waterfall, beautiful scenery, and a mini museum of the wildlife and plants there. However, the third stop was my favorite. The cableway took us down to the final stop, the Kuranda rainforest, and we got to explore the colorful markets, try their vegan food, watch hundreds of butterflies fly around us in a butterfly garden, feed and pet tropical birds in a bird sanctuary, see crocodiles, lizards, kangaroos, snakes, etc. in a zoo, AND I GOT TO HOLD A KOALA BEAR.
On our way out of the rainforest and back towards home, we signed up to do the optional train ride, The Kuranda Scenic Railway, so we could get a different view of the rainforest and of Cairns. This train ride is about 2 hours long because they let you exit the train and take pictures of all of the waterfalls that you pass.
When we were on our way to the hotel I was really happy because I thought my luggage would finally be back (keep in mind that I’ve been in the same clothes for 5 days at this point). But when we arrived my luggage still wasn’t there. After hours of frustration and talking to airline representatives, Ryan and I drove all the way back to the airport and picked up my luggage and I immediately put new clothes on (I didn’t even wait 5 minutes).
When then drove down to Trinity Beach and chased waves along the beach. This is probably one of my favorite memories of the trip because this was the moment where I realized Ryan has one of the biggest imaginations out of anyone that I know. When I was taking pictures and recording, I turn to my left and saw Ryan bent down talking to the waves saying, “Oh you’re SO scary wave. You think you’re so tough. Well you’re not.” And then as the waves would get close to him, he would scream and run away and I would laugh so hard.
After that we had a juice and walked down to Fratelli to have a really awesome dinner.
On this day we woke up super early again and not only did we stuff our faces with apples and peanut butter, we added bananas, chips, and dip.. because that makes sense at 4:00am.
Around 11:00 that morning we checked out of our hotel, got coffee and a juice, and hung out on Trinity beach. Before we started our hour drive to Port Douglas we decided to do some fun things on the way out and so we drove back up to the Kuranda Rainforest and checked out the Australian Venom Zoo. I ended up learning a lot and the guys that gave us the tour were super nice. While we were there we got to see the worlds most venomous snakes, spiders, scorpions, etc. and I got to hold a snake at the very end 🙂 . This is also the point in the trip where I realized Ryan had zero interest in holding animals. -_-
After going to the Kuranda market and buying some vegan desserts we started driving out to Port Douglas. The entire drive to Port Douglas is beautiful and we eventually stopped at one of the beaches to take a little break, relax, and enjoy the scenery. Once we left we only had a little bit of more driving until we finally made it to our next activity, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Again, those of you that are interested in going to Cairns this is another activity I highly recommend doing. It’s one of our top favorite moments from the whole trip because we learned a lot and were able to get pretty close to the crocodiles.
One of the first things we learned is that Hartley’s is a zoo but it’s main purpose is to be a breeding area for crocodiles. For example, huge designer companies like Louis Vuitton are some of their biggest customers because they purchase the crocodile skin from Hartley’s. I know what you’re thinking and how horrible that sounds, but they put it in slight perspective for us. Basically, if Hartley’s didn’t breed the crocodiles in captivity, then the crocodiles would be hunted in the wild and they could become extinct or endangered. Plus, when a female crocodile lays its eggs in the wild, the chance of them surviving are usually so slim that maybe only a handful are born. But at Hartley’s, usually 90% of the eggs make it, so it’s kind of like they wouldn’t survive without their help. But then they die so that sucks too. Anyways, another thing we learned was that there are two types of crocodiles. The freshwater crocodile (smaller and pointy snout) and the saltwater crocodile (huge and so scary). And that they don’t have sex chromosomes. Instead, their gender is determined by temperature.
After walking around Hartley’s we sat and ate lunch by some crocodiles, saw a crocodile feeding and a snake show, walked around and were able to get really close to some of them, and then we got to hold a baby one. We had a really, really great time there.
Later that evening we finally got to our hotel, Paradise Links Resort, and we were sooo ready to relax. I highly recommend this place to anyone that stays in the Port Douglas area and I really wish we could have stayed there for more than one night. We then drove to dinner at Watergate Port Douglas and had to wait awhile to get a table. During our wait we had strawberry sorbet and noticed that Australia has HUGE freaking bats that fly around near you at night. I’m serious when I say huge. We thought they were birds at first.
So when we finally got our table I was really happy because Ryan and I hadn’t had a night where we could really do something nice and just relax because we have been doing a million activities a day until bedtime. Well, leave it to me to start falling asleep at the table again. I’m not even kidding. Ryan has a video of me FALLING ASLEEP because I was still so jet-lagged. And it was only 9:30. I’m really sorry, Ryan. I owe you a nice date. 🙂
So this was my FAVORITE day because we were SCUBA DIVING IN THE GREAT BARRIER REEF.
We woke up super early and only had time to grab some instant coffee, get the GoPro ready, and check out of the hotel to drive to the marina before Calypso took off. Before we arrived I was expecting there to be around 50 people or so all trying to do scuba diving for the first time just like we were but instead we ended up being the only two divers that were doing it that day and they told us that rarely ever happens. So luckily, we were able to get one-on-one instructions on how to scuba dive!
Alright, I’m about to tell you all a story.
SO, before the boat takes off the instructors tell everyone, “There is a huge chance you will get seasick during this trip. We highly recommend that you take the seasick medication that we have on the boat before we take off because once you’re sick there is no curing it until you’re off the boat.” So I looked at Ryan and said, “Okay. We need to take this because I don’t want to risk us getting sick.” And he looks at me and says, “Stephanie, seasickness is all mental.” (wtf???) I said to him, “Ryan… take the medicine. Please. This wasn’t cheap and I would hate for it to be ruined over something stupid like getting seasick.” Well, he didn’t listen to me and instead took some ginger pills that are for pregnant women because they can’t take the seasick medication.
Later on during the 1.5 hour boat ride out to the Great Barrier Reef I look over at Ryan and notice he doesn’t look good. When we finally got to the first spot of the Reef it was time for us to get in our gear and get in the water. Right before we got in the water Ryan looks at our diving instructor and says, “Hey man, I think I’m about to throw up,” and he literally barfs into three different bags in front of everyone on the boat. -_-
When we got into the water we had to go through 3 series of tests to make sure we would be able to dive. I passed all 3 the first time with no issues at all, but when it’s Ryan’s turn he literally fails them all and it takes him 10 minutes before he passes them. -_-
THEN once we were halfway to the bottom of the sea floor, Ryan kept complaining about his ears hurting underwater -_- so the diving instructor had to keep fixing Ryan’s mask and help him through it, which took another 10 minutes out of the 45 minute time limit we had. And then when we came back up Ryan had a nose bleed. -_-
I make fun of Ryan constantly for this and talk about this story to everyone. But really, he didn’t do that bad and he did end up getting a lot better by the end of it all.
When we got to the second location of the Reef, called Snow, the instructors told us this would be a great opportunity to snorkel and I was kind of relieved because it would give us a chance to go at our own pace. This area of the reef is absolutely beautiful and you are so close to all the beautiful coral and marine life. Some swimmers saw sharks but I wasn’t so lucky, however I did see a massive Grouper!
The third and final location we went to was for scuba diving and it was pretty incredible. Ryan did a really great job this time and was able to get the hang of it once I told him that swallowing underwater will help with his ear pain. We were able to swim around coral reef and the same Grouper that we saw from the second location actually came over to us again and swam through my hands (such a cool experience).
Before the trip we were both pretty afraid of sharks and the possibility that we might get hurt, but we we didn’t see any and we felt completely safe the whole time. It was my favorite experience from the trip and for those of you planning on going to Australia, I DEFINITELY recommend going scuba diving. The next time we go we will probably go scuba diving but with a company that lets you swim with whales since we have already done the Reef experience!
That evening we drove to Cape Tribulation to stay at Lync-Haven Resort and the drive there was really beautiful. At one point we stopped on the side of the road to explore a really beautiful area and take pictures. We ended up trying to pet a herd of cows and then when we trespassed in their area they chased after us and we had to run as fast as we could back to the car. I was laughing so hard the entire time I was running because I was picturing what someone would think if they saw, from an aerial view, these two random people in Australia running from a herd of cows haha. Once we were back in the car we kept driving and ended up having to cross a ferry to get to Cape Tribulation.
For those of you that venture up to Cape Tribulation I do recommend staying at Lync-Haven. It’s really awesome because they have a restaurant, you get to stay in a little cabin, and they have a zoo there. When we woke up in the morning we fed cauliflower to the wallabies and their babies before heading off to our kayaking adventure.
Please note that the coloring in the photos below do not do the Great Barrier Reef justice AT ALL. It’s really hard to capture beautiful color underwater with a GoPro (especially since I didn’t have the proper filter for it because I’m a GroPro newbie).
After waking up and feeding the wallabies some cauliflower right outside of our cabin, we drove about 45 minutes towards Cape Tribulation Beach where we would meet our Paddle Trek instructor for our kayaking adventure. When we got our kayaks near the water we immediately saw a Lemon Shark on the shoreline trying to catch crabs and I was in complete awe and scared. We were about to be in the ocean inside this little boat and I couldn’t even get off the sand before seeing a shark. I was pretty terrified. However, I’m really glad I didn’t let it bother me too much because the entire kayaking experience was absolutely amazing and I learned so much.
After about an hour of kayaking, we ended up at another beach and took an hour break before heading back. When we got there we all walked around and tried to find coconuts to break open and eat. While searching, I went a different path in the forest and found huge crocodile nests and decided I should probably head back to the group… because, yeah. No way.
Our instructor ended up finding a coconut though and busted it open for us all to taste. It was my first time to try one straight from the plant itself and it was so refreshing. Completely unlike any coconut or taste that I’ve tried before.
When we headed back in the kayak towards Cape Tribulation Beach it was a lot easier because we weren’t against the wind this time. We were also stopping to take breaks and search for whales because it was mating season for them and when they mate they come closer to the beach. I REALLY wish we would have saw one but we ended up only seeing a shark and sea turtle, which I’m completely okay with.
After our kayaking experience we decided to ride horses through the Daintree Rainforest because it would have been a completely new experience for Ryan since he has never rode a horse before. We signed up with Cape Tribulation Horse Rides and we ended up being the only two people there (which never happens) and our instructors were SO nice. We set out on our horses, Oscar and Thunder, and rode through the rainforest and ended on the beach. At the very end our instructor let us ride our horses really fast and I had to use a stick that looked like a wand the entire time to make my horse go faster. I literally felt like a wizard on horseback (basically the best hour of my life). Another favorite part for me of this particular experience was riding on the horses on the way back out because you walked through this open field where you are in the middle of these mountains and they are just surrounding you. It was one of the prettiest parts of the country to me and I’m so happy I got to experience that (you can get a better glimpse in the photos and video below)!
After horseback riding we ate dinner at Whet and tried to get energized for the 2 hour drive back to Cairns. The locals at the restaurant were giving us tips for staying awake on our drive back by telling us to count how many white tail rats we can see on our way out of the forest. And one thing that surprised me this whole trip was every time that we told someone we were from Arkansas, they knew where it was. Partially because of Bill Clinton.
On our drive back we immediately saw bats and white tail rats but the only thing that was keeping us awake were the Starbursts that Ryan basically forced me to get 🙂 . The drive wasn’t too bad during the day but I really don’t recommend anyone driving out of the rainforest at night especially if you have been jet lagged all week. The drive was really hard for Ryan because we were both so exhausted and we knew we had this 2 hour drive back to Cairns to do. We eventually made it though and we picked a hotel closer to the airport to make our last two days in Cairns easier.
We stayed at Heritage Cairns and when we woke up I felt completely energized because we were finally able to sleep in without having to wake up super early for an activity. Since our flight left really early in the morning the next day, we decided to do something laid back and stick near Cairns.
Our tour guide on the horse rides the day before told us that if we really liked coffee that we should drive to Mareeba and visit Coffee Works. Ryan, being the big coffee drinker out of the both of us, was really interested in trying this and it would be something easy to do that day.
For those of you that visit Australia and love coffee, definitely check out Coffee Works but go earlier in the day because they close up around 5. When you get there you pay a fee to get in (it’s not much) but then you get to walk around and try different types of local and Australian coffees, liqueurs, teas, and chocolates for free and at your own pace that were either imported or made right there at Coffee Works. They also have a really awesome gift shop and a place to buy their coffees (we bought a bag of our favorite from the taste testing). Another perk about Coffee Works is that they have a two story museum of coffee related equipment and tools from around the world dating back to hundreds of years ago.
After spending as much time as we could there we headed back to grab some groceries for the flight the next day, eat burritos and drink margaritas at Zambrero, and pack to leave Australia. 🙁
Overall, this trip was amazing and I can’t wait to go back. Australia is a place I always dreamed about visiting ever since I was a little girl but I never thought I would be able to go. I really urge all of you to try and travel as much as possible. Your whole life can’t and shouldn’t be consumed by sitting behind a computer desk or in front of your phone. You CAN travel and you can do it cheaply if you research it enough. For all of you that have any interest in traveling to Australia, I hope this blog has helped you or will help you in the future!
One thing I wanted to do different and to start doing from now on is to make a video of every country I travel to. This was my first time to do video so I’m obviously not very good at it but our good friends Joe French and Tessa French with The French Adventures collaborated with me and put the video together and did the editing. These two are seriously so amazing and if you’re a bride searching for a videographer for your big day, PLEASE look at their work. They travel nationally and internationally for weddings and their work speaks for itself. Also, they will most definitely be doing my wedding one day.
And a special thank you to Jon Hopkins for responding to us and giving us permission to use his song. We couldn’t think or find a better song to go with this video and it’s also a plus that it has always been a favorite of mine.