Martinis Down Under – Exploring the Great Barrier Reef

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Beach, forest, and mountains meet in a beautiful, relatively unspoiled region.

  1. Introduction and Trip Planning
  2. LAX Oneworld First Class Lounge
  3. Qantas A380 LAX to SYD Economy
  4. Park Hyatt Sydney Part I
  5. Sydney Qantas Business Lounge
  6. Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas
  7. Exploring the Great Barrier Reef
  8. Cairns Qantas Club Lounge
  9. Park Hyatt Sydney Part II
  10. Exploring Sydney
  11. Sydney Qantas International First Class Lounge
  12. Qantas 747 SYD to LAX Economy

We set aside 6 days to explore the Cairns/Port Douglas area. The first observation I had was its striking resemblance to Hawaii. Beach, forest, and mountains meet in a beautiful, relatively unspoiled region.




Great Barrier Reef

While the area is gorgeous, the real treasure resides under the sea. Port Douglas is one of the most convenient launching points to experience the Great Barrier Reef. One misconception I had was that the Great Barrier Reef was relatively close to land. In reality, it requires a one hour boat ride in each direction with a high powered boat.


We scheduled six dives across two different companies. We went with Poseiden for our first dives. I had been certified outside of Washington DC in a quarry the week before so this was my first Ocean dive. The entire day we felt extremely rushed with Poseiden as compared the operator we chose the second day. I was surprised they had a first time diver doing some pretty intense diving activities such as taking us through an extremely tight cave without warning and a drift dive off a moving boat into a current that was extremely powerful. Had they warned me about these things I probably would have said no as a first time diver, but having “just done it”, admittedly it was pretty cool and something I will never forget.

The second day we went with Quicksilver and it was a total 180. They were relaxed and let us enjoy our day so much more. The diving itself was absolutely phenomenal. My dive buddy who has 100+ dives under her belt said this was her favorite diving ever. We saw Reef Sharks, Turtles, a billion fish and this super sweet puppy dog fish that comes up to you for hugs. I know you are never supposed to touch fish but this guy makes that decision for you.







Port Douglas city center

Back in the downtown area of Port Douglas, there was a fun little restaurant/bar street to grab drinks after a day of diving.



On one of the days we didn’t dive we drove into the rainforest and enjoyed the scenery. The road signs throughout the drive were pretty funny. Watch out for the Cassowaries!IMG_2991IMG_2999


A brief word about SCUBA diving

If you have the physical capacity and time/money commitment to get certified for SCUBA diving, I would highly recommend it. For many years, I assumed since I dislike snorkeling that I would feel the same about SCUBA diving. That turned out to be a poor assumption. SCUBA diving is extremely easy from a physical perspective and opens a whole new water world most never experience.

The bottom line

Port Douglas is a beautiful area that closely resembles Hawaii to me. If you are a SCUBA enthusiast, I would say this is a can’t miss location. If water activities are not your thing, I would say this is a beautiful area but you can probably find similar scenery elsewhere in other exotic locales.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at

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  1. Port Douglas was definitely a highlight of our Australian adventure. The little town was great. The restaurants are good. It’s a great jumping off point for a day on the reef. Another highlight was our journey out of Port Douglas for the Daintree Rainforest. We recommend all three: Daintree, the Reef and Port Douglas.

  2. I cannot speak for Alex but on our trip I wound up buying pictures with the right to use them for both personal and professional projects. I spoke with the photographer on the dive ship we were on and she commented that tourists often are disappointed with their own underwater photography at the reef. She then pointed out that professional underwater photos we are used to seeing were taken with an extremely expensive professional underwater camera and underwater lighting. Made sense for me and my purposes.

  3. Excellent work. Even if I were not uncomfortable underwater I’m sure I could not do nearly as well. I love the month we spent in Australia. And I was able to cross a couple of spots off my bucket list – Uluru and the reef.

  4. Great trip report! Just wondering – you mentioned it was winter when you were there – was the water really cold or wetsuits solved that problem? I’m more of a snorkeler so just wondering if it would be doable/enjoyable during their winter months. Also, did you find the boat ride out to the reef ‘rocky’ at all or smooth sailing? Finally, what month were you there exactly?

    Thanks again!

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