Chillagoe Caves

En Route with Best Western

Just 200kms from Cairns awaits a true Outback experience: a historic desert town complete with country pub, old copper mines, stunning scenery, aboriginal rock art, wildlife, and awe-inspiring caves.

Formed by the action of groundwater dissolving and reforming limestone rock, Chillagoe Caves are an extraordinary and extensive cave system. They are considered to be a world-class example of their kind and they’re well worth exploring.

 

Discover Chillagoe Caves

If you’re driving your own vehicle to Chillagoe, get there early for the first tour – Donna Cave. All three of the most famous caves can be seen in one day with a guide.

Chillagoe Caves tour tickets are available at Chillagoe’s pub or you can book a tour out of Cairns. Then, prepare to be amazed.

Over 400 million years ago, the Chillagoe Caves began as coral reefs in a shallow sea.

Today they’re a series of eye-popping caverns and passages adorned with impressive stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones. Several species of bat roost and breed in the Chillagoe Caves and they’re also one of just five nest sites for a white-rumped swiftlet.

 

Royal Arch Cave

This large, intricate cave is the easiest to walk through as the path is mostly horizontal, so it’s easy on the legs. It offers the longest tour – at 1.5 hours – through 11 grand chambers.

 

Donna Cave

Graded ‘moderate’ this one has 200 steps. The tour takes around an hour and highlights the cave’s stunning limestone columns and many calcite crystals.

 

Trezkin Cave

From the entrance there are great views of area. This cave’s claim to fame is a beautiful ‘chandelier’ formation. This tour takes just 45 minutes and is graded ‘moderate’ as there are a few steep flights of stairs.

There are also three Chillagoe caves you can enter without a guide, although they are difficult to access and you will definitely need a torch.

 

Things to do around Chillagoe Caves

There are many things to see and experience to do in the surrounding area, including visiting the historic smelter site, bushwalking, swimming and fishing.

Galleries of ancient Aboriginal rock art are all around, but keep in mind that these are protected. Wildlife abounds – so, you’re sure to spot wallaroos, rock wallabies and snakes. There are also around 75 species of bird, so it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise

If you’re into photography, you’ll find plenty of inspiration around the Chillagoe Caves. Top of the list are the gravity-defying Balancing and Dome Rocks. They’re especially beautiful at dawn and as the sun goes down.

Find out more about Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park.

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Longing to lunch with a crocodile? Cuddle a koala? Lounge around with lemurs? Or get up close and personal with a snake?

Then Cairns Tropical Zoo is the place for you.

It’s unique ‘Zootastic 5’ wildlife encounter runs for an hour and although it does cost extra, it’s a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience that comes with commemorative photos.

If you’d prefer to keep your distance, or are sightseeing on a budget, there’s still plenty to see – and feed – at the award-winning Cairns Tropical Zoo.

 

Cairns Tropical Zoo is Wild

This family-owned zoo offers a great mix of entertainment, education and wildlife conservation, with one of the biggest and most extensive collections of wildlife in North Queensland.

It’s a great day out for families and tourists wanting to get close to Australia’s wonderful native creatures and cute imports such as red pandas and cotton top tamarins.

Located on several hectares of landscaped gardens, Cairns Tropical Zoo boasts an awesome community of reptiles, including snakes, monitors, dragons, lizards and both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles.

There’s also a fantastic array of birds. They include black cockatoos, forest birds, water birds, and birds of prey such as kookaburras and owls. You can’t miss the emus, cassowaries, pelicans and brolgas – they’re huge. While a wander through the walk-through aviary gets you close to beautiful brightly coloured parrots, bowerbirds, and more.

Australian mammals calling the zoo home include koalas, dingoes, common and southern hairy nose wombats, possums and plenty of friendly kangaroos and wallabies.

You can actually wander around a kangaroo enclosure – meeting, greeting and hand-feeding the 60 or so eastern grey kangaroos.

 

Feeding Time at Cairns Tropical Zoo

Cairns Tropical Zoo thoughtfully provides fun options for feeding people.

A great way to start the day is to have brekky with several cheeky animals. While you enjoy your cooked breakfast, waffles or cereal, a keeper holding a gorgeous koala gives a talk about the wildlife.

For lunch and snacks there’s the licensed Koala Café, which is on a big covered deck overlooking trees. The Outback Café caters for group breakfasts and lunches for up to 150 people. Definitely a good spot for a special celebration – complete with live soundtrack courtesy of the residents!

Visit Cairns Tropical Zoo to find out more, buy admission tickets, and book breakfast with the animals, or make a group booking for the Outback Café.

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Yes, Sydney can be expensive and tricky to get around by car, but this outdoorsy and cultural city is definitely family-friendly.

Many top Sydney attractions for families – like a trip to the beach – are light on the pocket, close to the city, and easy to get on foot or public transport.

When it comes to special adventures, the sky’s the limit. Unique Sydney attractions for families include Taronga Zoo, concerts at Sydney Opera House, surf lessons at iconic Bondi Beach, The Harbour Bridge Climb, exploring Cockatoo Island, and jet boating on Sydney Harbour to name but a few.

Top Sydney Attractions for Families

If it’s a nice day, it’s a no brainer: hit the beach. There are many lovely harbour and surf beaches to choose from. Some, like Manly and Bondi, have vibrant lifestyle precincts with cafes, shops and playgrounds.

Sydney’s top beaches for families are: Nielsen Bay, Coogee, and Clovelly (great snorkelling!) in the Eastern Suburbs. North of the Harbour Bridge, there’s idyllic Balmoral Beach and fabulous Manly Beach.

A big bonus of a beach outing to either Manly or Balmoral is the fast scenic ferry trip from Circular Quay.

Kids just love riding on Sydney’s ferries. As well as being the quick and easy way to get to many Sydney attractions for families, ferries offer unbeatable views of Sydney Harbour, the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and other must-sees.

Unique Sydney Attractions for Families

The Sydney Harbour Bridge walk adventure starts from either end. It’s under a kilometre in distance with huge views in all directions.

At the bridge’s southern end, explore the historic Rocks precinct, stop by the Sydney Observatory, then walk through Circular Quay to see Sydney Opera House. At the northern end there’s Luna Park (entry is free, you just pay for rides) and the fabulous Olympic Pool – a top spot on a sunny day.

Sydney Museums – the biggies for kids of all ages are the funky Powerhouse Museum of science and design and the mammoth Australian Museum which has ten complete dinosaur skeletons!

Darling Harbour Playground is Australia’s best. It’s free and massive fun for little ones and teenagers.

Darling Harbour’s IMAX Theatre has the biggest screen in the universe. Treat the kids to a 3D movie and you’ll wear a halo for at least a week.

Darling Harbour’s Wildlife Zoo Sydney, Sydney Aquarium and Madame Tussauds are highly entertaining and educational too. Get a family combo ticket for all three attractions.

If you’ve time and energy left, don’t miss Darling Harbour’s Australian Maritime Museum where you can climb aboard historic vessels, including a real submarine.

Find more Sydney attractions for families, including special events for kids.

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Fishing adventures in Australia’s legendary tropics can be truly magical, with some of greatest game fishing and light tackle opportunities in the world.

And as well as giving you the chance to bag the catch of your dreams, Cairns fishing charters treat visitors to jaw-dropping scenery like world heritage-listed rainforest, majestic rivers and the spectacular Great Barrier Reef.

Thanks to diverse, highly productive ecosystems, there is an astounding variety of fish species in the area.

 

Types of Cairns Fishing Charters

The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is uniquely positioned for thrilling fishing charters as it’s close to the continental shelf, reefs and vast estuarine and river systems.

There’s an abundance of operators offering Cairns fishing charters, catering to all levels of experience and a range of budgets. Do your research and you should have no trouble finding a top skipper with excellent local knowledge of all the best spots.

 

Cairns Fishing Charters – Reef

Considered by many to be the ultimate fishing experience, the Great Barrier Reef offers not only an incredible variety of fish but also the chance to observe astounding marine life.

It’s not uncommon to see playful dolphins, giant turtles, and whales on migration from May to September. The giant humpback is the most commonly sighted whale. You may even get one breeching near your boat to have a look at you!

In order to protect this aquatic paradise and its inhabitants, there are strict rules for boats and fishing. Your skipper will give you the lowdown.

 

Cairns Fishing Charters – Estuary

Just minutes from the city is some of the best fishing in the Far North, with around 90 kilometres of winding, mangrove-lined waterways to explore.

There are over 40 types of fish to chase in Cairns’ estuaries, and it’s not unheard of for ten or more species to be caught in one location. You can expect to encounter Australia’s famous Barramundi, Trevally, Gold Spot Cod, Salmon, and many others.

 

Cairns Fishing Charters – River

Flowing down from the mountains through ancient rainforest to the coastal lowlands, Cairns’ mighty tidal rivers are home to a myriad of fish species, including barramundi, fingermark, tarpon, grunter and mangrove jack.

Just keep in mind that catches vary according to the season. For instance the barramundi season is closed for breeding from November to January and any caught during this time must be released.

An exciting bonus of taking a Cairns fishing charter through the river system is seeing crocodiles in their natural habitat. Don’t be tempted to jump in for a swim – these prehistoric giants move fast!

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A visit to Cairns gives you the chance to experience one of the most awe-inspiring adventures on the planet: scuba diving on The Great Barrier Reef.

Acclaimed as one of the world’s top scuba diving locations, The Great Barrier Reef is teeming with marine life, sea birds, and spectacular corals.

A World Heritage Site, the reef covers 350,000 square kilometres and is the only life form visible from the moon.

This wonderland is within easy reach of Cairns, making it the perfect location to learn scuba diving.

 

Scuba Diving – Your Options

Whether you’re a beginner wanting to get your dive licence, a veteran diver, a pro wanting new skills for your CV, or simply want to try a one-off ‘resort dive’, your choices are many.

Scuba diving is a way of life in the coastal Far North, so Cairns boasts a myriad of dive shops, scuba diving schools and scuba diving expedition operators. Many are locals with outstanding knowledge of dive sites and the reef’s ecosystems.

If you’re a beginner, a five-day learn to dive course is the way to go. You’ll spend several days in the pool learning the fundamentals, then head out to the reef for an overnight stay on a boat. Staying out means more fun and more dives – including an unforgettable night dive. This is not nearly as scary as it sounds.

Once you’re qualified, you’ll be a certified recreational scuba diver, with a licence that’s recognised the world over.

For experienced divers, there’s a huge range of day tours, private charters, and live-aboard dive expeditions ranging from one night to many.

 

Scuba Diving Highlights

The Great Barrier Reef has the greatest concentration of life on earth and fantastic underwater visibility.

The thrill of being transported to another world is made all the most exciting by close, crystal-clear encounters with amazing creatures and magnificent marine landscapes.

You can expect to see dolphins, huge sea turtles, various sharks, dugongs, incredibly beautiful giant clams, and even whales during their seasonal migration. Plus over 350 types of wildly coloured corals, and countless dazzling fish – around 1500 species all up.

Many fish don’t seem at all perturbed by humans and will happily swim around you. Monster Gropers, metres in length, might even try to make friends.

 

Scuba Diving Health & Safety

The North Queensland scuba diving industry is considered one of the world’s safest and best run, thanks to high levels of professionalism and tight regulations. You must pass the local Dive Medical before you can do a dive course or participate in some advanced scuba diving expeditions.

 

Find out about the Dive Medical.

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Ever watched a monkey swinging leisurely through a tree canopy, checking out the scenery, and wondered what it would be like to move so freely?

Jungle surfing in the Daintree Forest at Cape Tribulation is the next best thing.

An exhilarating eco-adventure for all ages – including little kids and elderly people – jungle surfing is a safe, must-do experience for visitors to Far North Queensland. You’ll love it!

What is Jungle Surfing?

Jungle surfing is a professionally guided tour of the forest canopy riding on flying fox ziplines.

Along the way you’ll glide in for stops on secure platforms high up in huge trees. From here you can gaze out over the world heritage-listed Daintree Forest, down rushing fresh-water creeks and out to the spectacular Great Barrier Reef.

Jungle surfing is a great way to experience the thrill of ‘flying’ at a pace that allows you to look, listen and learn about the rainforest’s flora, fauna, habitats and evolution.

Don’t worry – jungle surfing is not meant to be a massive adrenalin rush, but rather a fun and educational encounter with nature from a unique perspective.

Jungle Surfing for All

Practically anyone can jungle surf, providing you weigh 120kg or less. You should be fit enough to walk a couple of hundred metres along a track into the jungle surfing site. However, this activity is not recommended for pregnant women.

Once you’re strapped into your harness, the rest of the work is handled by the experienced guides, so you can relax and enjoy the ride. If you have restricted mobility or a serious medical condition, do talk to the jungle surfing operators as they’ll do their best to accommodate your needs wherever possible.

Although some people find it a bit daunting to be up so high, the tours are led by trained professionals who know how to help surfers overcome a fear of heights. They’ll  guide you through every step of the adventure.

Where to go Jungle Surfing

Options include driving to the Daintree in your own vehicle or taking a day tour from Cairns. The journey to the forest is one of Australia’s most scenic coastal road trips and includes an exciting crossing on the Daintree River cable ferry.

Remember to pack insect repellent, sunscreen, hat, closed shoes, and your camera. And just a friendly warning – don’t wear a skirt!

To find out more go to Cairns Attractions.

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The funky inner city suburb of Surry Hills is chock full of surprises. One moment you can be dining at one of Australia’s poshest restaurants, the next blowing the dust off a rare antique book, or scoring yourself rockstar threads with matching purple winklepickers from a kooky store down a laneway.

In between there are an abundance of boho boutiques, retro stores, designer furniture showcases, out-there art galleries, and loads of quirky shops that defy definition but are impossible to walk past.

Exploring Surry Hills Shopping Village

Surry Hills is a pleasure to explore as many of the streets are lined with big trees and gorgeous Victorian terrace houses in various states of disrepair, restoration and creative re-invention, thanks to the diverse demographics of this buzzing precinct.

Once the enclave of musos, artists, drug dealers and ladies of the night, today Surry Hills is home to growing numbers of creative professionals and dudes in suits. It’s also a popular gay village thanks to its café society and proximity to great nightlife.

This melting pot of cultures has helped shape the Surry Hills Shopping Village into one of Sydney’s most stylishly eclectic and interesting shopping precincts.

The main shopping streets of Crown Street, Cleveland Street, Bourke Street and Fitzroy Street can be covered in a day or two, but try to allow more time as you’ll find yourself continually side-tracked by the art galleries and cavernous emporiums full of jaw-dropping designer furniture and mid-century treasures.

Vintage and retro shops abound in Surry Hills, with a whole stack of them in Crown Street and Cleveland Street.

In between the windows full of 70s psychedelic frocks, 50s furs, pin-up girl cossies and shaggy vests, there is a fantastic array of left-of-field fashion boutiques and high-end street fashion stores for men, women and everyone in between.

Even the cyclists in Surry Hills are stylish. That’s because they get their skinny little behinds into Babici – the couture label that specialises in high-tech cycling apparel. You’ll find this gem in Hill Street.

Due to the plethora of fashion designers and sewing nuts that have always hung out here, Surry Hills is THE place to be to for amazing designer fabrics, patterns and haberdashery – just head down Cooper Street and Commonwealth Street.

Surry Hills Market

Held on the first Saturday of the month on the corner of Crown and Collins in the heart of Surry Hills Shopping Village, this is an awesome market for people watching and picking up recycled treasures and craft at excellent prices.

Get the lowdown on the latest and greatest shopping in Surry Hills.

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Sydney Aquarium is Amazing

Sydney’s number one tourist attraction, Sydney Aquarium, is considered to be the best aquarium in Australia and it’s one of the largest in the world.

Located in Darling Harbour, next to the CBD, Sydney Aquarium specialises in Australian aquatic animals. There are hundreds of species of freshwater and sea creatures from all over the country.

Sydney Aquarium is open every day of the year, from 9am to 8pm daily.

Highlights of Sydney Aquarium

The fauna and flora at Sydney Aquarium has to be seen to be believed.

Here, right in the middle of the city, just metres from towering office blocks, you can get up close to dugongs, penguins, platypuses, a myriad of tropical fish, and a huge Great Barrier Reef oceanarium with a live coral cave.

There are also massive stingrays swanning around in their own special environment called Bay of Rays. One of the world’s biggest collections of sharks is just around the corner.

It’s just as well there are amazing immersive viewing opportunities – including underwater glass tunnels through key exhibits such as The Shark Walk. The feeling of being in the water with the animals is so real that you might find yourself ducking and squealing when a deadly Grey Nurse shark slowly glides over your head.

Visiting Sydney Aquarium

Recently refurbished, Sydney Aquarium is renowned for the beauty and authenticity of its spectacular displays, which are as close as possible to the 13,000 inhabitants’ natural habitats.

Fourteen Australian-themed zones take visitors on a journey through Australia’s waterways and ecosystems – from freshwater rivers to the tropical seas, deep into the ocean and rock pools, down creeks, up Mangrove swamps and into billabongs.

At the Discovery Rockpools you can actually touch some of the animals. Kids love this. Please check their pockets before you leave.

Throughout the day, Sydney Aquarium hosts informative talks with chances to see creatures being fed by their keepers. Keep an eye out for big clocks letting you know when the next talk starts.

Keep in mind that it can get very busy at Sydney Aquarium, with long queues during the school holidays, on public holidays and over Christmas. You can get good deals on tickets if you book online, including combo deals for entry to Wild Life Sydney Zoo next door to Sydney Aquarium.

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This iconic vintage fun park perched on the edge of the harbour at Milson’s Point is heaps of fun for kids big and small.

It’s also a top vantage point day or night for outstanding views of the harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

Although small by modern theme park standards, Luna Park has enough rides and amusements for an action-packed day out with young children.  For anyone over the age 12 a couple of hours is probably ample. If you’d like to linger longer, go for a picnic at the lovely park overlooking Lavender Bay down the path behind Luna Park.

The fun way to get to Luna Park is on the ferry from Circular Quay. It’s a short trip with a big wow factor as the boat passes under Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Luna Park Highlights

The charm of Luna Park is its old-fashioned carnival atmosphere. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time the moment you walk through the famous smiling face at the entrance.

Inside, the rides include kids’ favourites The Carousel, Magic Castle and Space Shuttle. For the more courageous there are white knuckle thrills to be had on the rattling, roaring Wild Mouse – the most famous rollercoaster in Sydney.

Luna Park’s Ferris Wheel is famous too, but for romantic coos rather than squeals of terror: it’s been the setting for many a marriage proposal over the years.

Even if you’re not into passionate declarations on Ferris wheels or feeding clowns’ mouths with balls, it’s worth coming to Luna Park for the views and historic attractions. Several of its buildings are on both the NSW State Heritage Register and the Register of the National Estate.

Luna Park Ticket Options

Entry into Luna Park is free. You can buy tickets for individual rides, or get a day pass for unlimited rides all day. There are three types of day pass as there are height restrictions on some rides. Kids 85cms or under ride for free on The Carousel and Ferris Wheel provided an adult goes with them.

Over summer, Luna Park teams up with the fabulous North Sydney Olympic Pool next door to offer free swimming to everyone with a Luna Parks’ unlimited rides wristband. The pool is huge – 50 metres – and heated, with sundeck, café, and big views. It’s a magic spot for cooling off after all the excitement of Luna Park.

For more information and to buy day passes, go to Luna Park Sydney online.

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