Making it in Melbourne: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!

Evening shot of a swarm of seagulls in Cairns in Australia

First tropic of conversation: Cairns. (Yes, I meant to say tropic.)

Cairns is about as far north in Australia you can go. And the closer you get to the equator, the warmer it is, which is exactly what I was after. Melbourne’s getting a bit chilly for this Arizona wimp’s taste! I soaked up all the sun possible in two days and returned a crisp of my former self. For once in my life, I’m the only one with tan lines in a several mile radius, so you could say I’m ecstatic.

Cairns isn’t really a name most people recognize, but it should be because it’s the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef! We took a day cruise to the outer reef and got to snorkel among fish (including lots of Nemos and Dorys), and my friend that was diving even saw a sea turtle and a shark! I’m less jealous of the second one. The reef feels alien and otherworldly, if not just for its scale (being a mass the size of Japan) that you can’t really see unless you’re underwater.

Cairns is a small beach town that you feel immediately familiar with, so two full days there turned out to be the perfect amount of time. It’s a very unique place – at sunset, hundreds of bats swarm the skies, which is both breathtaking and terrifying. The many beaches in the town itself aren’t fit for swimming because of the jellyfish and crocodile population so there’s been a “lagoon” built for tourists to enjoy synthetic sand and a chlorinated portion of the sea.

Further north, there are a couple of beaches accessible by public transit. They are less croc- and stinger-infested, but they’re still there, which would explain the “stinger stations” featuring concerning half-empty bottles of vinegar to use if stung. There are no crocodile stations because… well, we’ll just leave that there.

Moral of the story: Cairns is great and warrants a visit if you find yourself in Australia anytime soon!

Grand Canyon University offers study abroad opportunities for campus students. Learn more about the campus experience by visiting our website or contacting us using the Request More Information form at the top of the page.

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