Cairns and Queensland Podcast Diary – Episode 160 of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast

I’ve been away – and I want to tell you all about it! Cairns hosted the annual convention of the Australian Society of Travel Writers and I was excited to head along there – and see a bit of Cairns and tropical north Queensland while I was there. Have a listen (after you’ve looked at my idyllic memory of Fitzroy Island …).

My new favourite part of Queensland: Fitzroy Island

Flying over the rainforest: taking Skyrail up to Kuranda, Queensland

Show notes: Episode 160 of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast

Cairns and Queensland Podcast Diary

Time for something different for Episode 160 of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast: you can listen in on my diary! I’ve just spent a week in Cairns, Queensland, and after many requests to do this, I actually recorded a podcast diary on my trip. Well, most days – it was a very busy trip!

The first part of my trip saw me explore Cairns, the Nerada Tea plantation and taking the Skyrail to Kuranda on my own – all lots of fun and I especially enjoyed the chance to be a solo traveller for just a couple of days again. That’s a rare pleasure for me at this phase in life.

For the second half of my trip, a hundred and fifty or so of my friends joined me!! In fact I was attending the annual convention of the Australian Society of Travel Writers, so I got to visit Fitzroy Island with a small group of them, and then spend two days together talking and celebrating all things travel writing, travel PR and travel influencing. It’s such a fun event and also really got my mind ticking over with a billion new ideas for the podcast.

Visiting Nerada Tea’s plantation in Queensland


Some of the travel I did on this trip was sponsored or subsidised and I’m very grateful for the chance! Of course: my views are always my own.

  • Nerada Tea plantation – see where your tea grows! You can eat a mighty good meal there and see their resident tree kangaroos 
  • Kuranda Skyrail – a fabulous way to get up into the rainforest
  • Fitzroy Island off Cairns – a place I’ve promised my son I’ll take him to in the near future 
  • Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort – a hotel that even I approve of!
  • Tropical North Queensland – more things to do in this fabulous part of the world

Transcript of Episode 160

Amanda Kendle 0:00
Hello, and welcome to Episode 160 of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast. It is one of those special episodes every 10 episodes, and it’s perfect timing, because I have just come back from a trip to Queensland, and I decided I’ll do something a little bit different that in fact, a lot of people have asked me for in the past, they often say when I go on a trip, I should record stuff on the way. And usually, I don’t even think of it, which is awful, what a terrible podcaster I am. But this time, at least in the early days, I had a bit more time. So it’s something a bit different. And so the this episode is my Cairns and Queensland podcast diary. I managed to record three separate times during and just shortly after my trip, I had these grand intentions of doing it nearly daily. But it was one of the trips that was really really busy. Good busy, but busy nonetheless. So, anyway, it’s a little bit of experiment and it was really fun to do. So maybe you’ll get a little bit of an insight into what I think about when I’m traveling.

Amanda Kendle 1:29
So it was actually a trip alone without Mr9 he was really mad about that poor kid, but not poor kid. He’s not my really, really lucky, right? So I was on my own because I was heading to Cairns for the the annual convention of the Australian Society of Travel Writers. If you’re an astute listener, then you might remember I went to Bangkok for that convention for the first time last year and spoke there about blogging and it was a really such a great event with so many fabulous people there that I definitely wanted to return this year. I also hadn’t been to Cairns in Queensland since I was 12, which is quite some years ago, quite some decades ago. So I was keen to get back there as well. So it all seemed like a good reason to go. And just occasionally to travel without my beautiful Mr9 is a bit of a special thing to do as well, especially when it’s work related. And I get to spend, you know, that really quality time with really interesting like-minded people.

Amanda Kendle 2:32
So basically that is the preamble to what this trip is all about. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that some parts of this trip were sponsored or subsidized. Because that’s what happens when you’re getting 150 on travel writers in one place – people like to help and give you stuff and do stuff for you. But nonetheless, as always, I will only tell the truth about what I’ve seen. So I will stop rambling for a second and let you get into day one. So I recorded something after day one, and I have to add a little forewarning that, in retrospect, listening back, it seems like my first impressions of kids don’t sound fully positive, although also not negative, but yet not that great. But I’m really glad I recorded these words as I went, because by the time I got home, I forgotten these initial feelings because the rest of the week turned out to be so amazing. So here is day one.

Amanda Kendle 3:28
Day one in Cairns, I came in on the red eye flight. I hate the red eye flight every time I take that and leave, you know, at midnight, fly through the night, except it’s not long enough, it’s only four hours. And I get somewhere on the east coast and I think I’m never ever taking that flight again. But I always do because it ends up being much, much cheaper. Anyway, I’m here. I’m pretty tired and I’m about to go to bed. But I wanted to record a few observations from my first day. I always want to do this but I never usually have time and people often ask me to Do it. So let’s see how it goes. So I spent the day in Cairns without any particular plans. I had thought I may be on a trip earlier, connected to the conference. So I flew in in time for that, and I don’t have anything on until tomorrow. So today actually was really a work day, I had actual “work work” from the rest of my working life to finish off, and it was hard to stay in the hotel at my desk getting that work done. But it was really good motivation to finish it. So then I could go and explore. Now before I came on this trip, as usual, I tried to do some reading around, read some books and novels and stuff connected to Cairns. But everything I found talked about kind of what’s beyond Cairns out in the rural areas, which I’ll see more of in the next few days. But not much about the town itself so I hadn’t really thought too much about it and once I got out there, I was actually surprised how much it was like the Gold Coast, like with lots of restaurants along the shore and stuff, only big differences you can’t swim at the beach here. They have a paddling pool instead. But yeah, it’s really touristy. But that’s okay. Nothing wrong with having tourists around. There’s pros and cons.

Amanda Kendle 5:19
Anyway, having this kind of rare solo travel day or little part of the day, I wanted to do something that I enjoy and I wanted to go to the art gallery. So I went to the Cairns Art Gallery, and there’s all sorts of stuff there. But I was pleased to find what I was hoping to find, which was some Torres Strait Islander art and some Aboriginal art. And yeah, nice little gallery. Really cute to see. So in the early evening, I headed to the Night Markets and that is where I felt like I suddenly was in another country, that country being Japan. I discovered the Japanese is like the first language of the Night Markets. I literally walked around and because I speak a bit of Japanese, I could understand all this stuff that was happening but wasn’t English and that was weird. But I understand that Cairns and northern Queensland is a real hot spot for Japanese tourism. I’ve just kind of never really seen it in action. But seeing that action gave me this dinner brain wave and I thought, Hey, there must be some really good Japanese restaurants here because lots of Japanese people live here as well as visit and I found a fabulous izakaya, had amazing gyoza and amazing eggplant. So good.

Amanda Kendle 6:31
And then just as I was finishing up I got great news in a message that some of my travel buddy friends were already here in Cairns because they’re heading off on a trip tomorrow. Kind of didn’t know that anyone else was here already. So I raced back to the hotel to meet up with one of my very best travel buddies, Julie from Have Wheelchair Will Travel. She’s been on the podcast and my favorite time I ever had was Julie was when we got caught in the rain in Bangkok last year. We got saturated, it was such a drowned rat story, but it was fun. And I have pictures, but I’ve been told not to share them. And I also finally got to meet Christine from Adventure Baby who’s been on the podcast as well. So that was a really lovely way to spend the day when you live in Perth, which as you might have figured out by now is a really isolated place, and it’s kind of far too everywhere, and so then when you get to see people who do similar work to you, and you only get to see them, you know, once every, you know, maybe once a year or once every two years, it’s really special. So I’m looking forward to more of that when my conference starts.

Amanda Kendle 7:34
So that was day one. Not much more to add to that at this stage because a lot of these things will be drawn upon more during the rest of the episode. But I have to just emphasize again, my absolute excitement at catching up with people like Julie and Christine and so many more who arrived over the rest of the week. It is one of those just blessed things about travelling when you get to spend time with like-minded people like that. It’s a bit like – if you are a member of the Thoughtful Travellers Facebook group, you will understand – it’s a bit like if all of us who chat away in there were suddenly all in the same place at the same time, and how awesome that would be. That’s kind of like what I got to experience last week just with a somewhat different bunch of people. But similarly like-minded I reckon. Anyway, enough, my rambling. My next diary, and she comes from days two and three. So at the end of day two. I was exhausted, completely forgot I was going to do this. But by the end of day three, I remembered and I managed to record another little snippet.

Amanda Kendle 8:38
Continuing on with my saga from Cairns in northern Queensland. So I just want to tell you a bit about my second and third days here. It’s actually the morning of the fourth day and I’m about to head to Fitzroy Island for a famil, a press trip overnight. But first, I want to record some of my experiences in the last couple of days. So on the second day here, I had a brilliant experience that was one of the lovely opportunities that come attached to coming to a travel writers conference. And I got to spend the day at Nerada Tea’s plantation in the Atherton Tablelands. They are Australia’s biggest tea producer. So there you go. And I got to spend the day with Bev and Tony. So she’s the marketing manager and he runs the whole place. They’re are a couple as well. Tony’s worked there for 30 years. And they live on the property. They’re very, very much the Nerada Tea family. But it was and it was fascinating and beautiful because I got to first of all, explore how tea, you know, I was through the factory and everything. The smell was amazing. I love the way they work and the way they embrace the local community and all the ideas they have to expand the experience for people visiting Nerada there, they even have tree kangaroos on the property, which is amazing. And it was just one of those days where well I got to hang out with kind of like a new friend all day. And it was, you know, a special kind of way, now I think I’m very lucky as someone who works in the industry to be able to have those really, you know, really one off experiences. And I appreciated it so much. It was just a special day, but they’ve got lots of plans for the future, which I think will make that experience available to lots of visitors up this way.

Amanda Kendle 10:21
And yesterday, I got to be a bit more touristy in some ways. I was on the Skyrail, up to Kuranda from Cairns, so it’s like a cable car over the rain forest, in three sort of sections. It’s absolutely divinely incredibly beautiful. When I was last in Cairns, as a kid that didn’t exist, you could take the train which still exists, but yesterday I was all Skyrail. And it was just beautiful. And combined with some of my favorite things like meeting interesting people. It started as soon as I got on the bus, to transfer up to where Skyrail takes off from. And there was this group of Americans on the bus, some teachers and their teenage students all the way from California. And they were doing a bit of sightseeing, but they were actually here after being here to compete in a competition for like I can’t remember the name of it, but these drone competitions. They were, the teenage kids were flying these drones to simulate going to rescue or dropping off an epi pen to rescue a hiker, an ill hiker in the outback. So I thought that was just such a cool idea. They were really interesting people. It’s the second group of Americans I’ve met here who who really wanted to know what Australian think about Americans and so we had some really great conversations. And then I got onto the Skyrail into the gondola, floating over the rain forest, so beautiful. And I was in a gondola with just one other Aussie, his name was Mark. And of course, he happened to be a horticulturalist who worked in the Botanic Gardens. And so I got the best commentary on all this plants and trees we were passing over. So just beautiful. Now the rest of my day up at Kuranda, which is you know, a really fun cool little village up there, I got to visit a bunch of the animal places up there like the Birdworld, Koala World, the Butterfly Sanctuary. And I feel yeah, it was great, but I have a lot of mixed feelings about, you know about these kind of animal attractions and like you know, to be honest, it is exciting to see these animals really up close. But I think that in the coming decades, attractions like this will change a lot. So we’ll see and I did definitely not want to hold a koala, that was one of the things that people could do there and I felt sorry for the poor sleepy things who really probably didn’t want to be held but you know, that’s their job.

Amanda Kendle 12:45
Anyway, so I got to come back over the rain forest and you can get off at a couple of stops and have walks through the forest. It’s just absolutely divine. Even pictures don’t explain how amazing it is. And I finished the day with dinner with a fabulous bunch of travel writers, they’re all been gradually flying in from across Australia. And they’ll have a lot more to do with them in the next few days. But these couple of days where I was mostly on my own exploring, oh I really love, it just reminded me, I love traveling on my own, and I look forward to doing more of it in the future.

Amanda Kendle 13:19
There you go, that was days two and three of my Cairns and Queensland experience with more raving about the excitement of catching up with fellow travel writers and other buddies. But also what I really did appreciate from those couple of days was having a couple of solo travel days. It’s something that’s so rare for me, and I really, really love it. But maybe I only love it because it’s so rare. And if I did it all the time, I wouldn’t because I really do love being with people. But I don’t know, I don’t have the chance to find out at this stage in life. So we’ll just have to wait and see. Anyway, I especially loved having those couple of solo, more or less solo travel days because after that it got really, really hectic and hectic to the point I failed to record anything else while I was physically in Queensland. But quickly after I got home I did manage to record this last snippet which was about the second half of my week. So day four, five and six of my Cairns and Queensland experience.

Amanda Kendle 14:22
Well so much for recording every day. But this is just a quick summary of the final three days of my Cairns trip because it just got crazy crazy busy in a good way but anyway, I’m actually home, it’s a little bit after that, but I thought while it’s still pretty fresh in my mind I will record the last part. So on the fourth day, I ended up on a fabulous fabulous trip over to Fitzroy Island with a group from the conference so me and about half a dozen of the travel writers and led by by the delightful Shelley from Tourism and Events Queensland. And Fitzroy Island was amazing it reminded me in some ways of our Rottnest Island here in Perth. There’s not much to it. There’s, you know, no cars to speak of. It’s a bit smaller than Rottnest I’d say. I’d have to check that. But anyway, it’s just a little place and we stayed in the Fitzroy Island Resort, was beautiful. We didn’t have heaps of time there but we started off with a beautiful swim just outside our accommodation. My room there had the best tropical kind of view with amazing palm trees and over the water and you know, little boats, it was just to die for. Wish I was back there.

Amanda Kendle 15:42
We then got to see the turtle rehabilitation centre there and chat with guide Esri who is involved in turtle rehab and reef restoration as well. Are they starting coral farming and all sorts of stuff. He’d just been certified as a Master Reef Guide and knows the Great Barrier Reef inside out and so many interesting bits and pieces of information, it was just a pleasure to chat with him. And we finished off, well next to the last thing of the day was a sunset sail on the Eye Spy catamaran, it was just beautiful. And one of the things I like about these kind of trips is, I mean, it’s a real privilege, but we got to spend it chatting to some of the management staff of Fitzroy Island. And, you know, it’s such a beautiful setting like that, we’re all relaxed and get to really hear about, you know, what their hopes and dreams are for, you know, how they’ll develop it and how they’ll get more people come and visit. I mean, I think everyone should just go because such a beautiful spot Fitzroy Island. But it was, yeah, just a magical evening and topped off with a perfect dinner. In the morning, we had a quick breakfast and got to walk to a Nudey Beach. It’s doesn’t, it’s not actually a nudie beach. Sorry, in case you’re disappointed, we were all clothed and everyone is usually clothed. So there you go! But just an amazing spot as well.

Amanda Kendle 17:08
And then back in time to get the ferry back to Cairns and then push so from the bus straight into registration for our convention, didn’t even have time to check into a room until later in the day. And then I just did not stop for 48 hours. When I’m at a conference like that I do really try and make the most of it because it’s a long way from Perth to get to those things. And I really don’t want to, you know, kind of go home with any regrets. So, it was the Australian Society of Travel Writers convention. I’ve been a member there for a couple of years. And obviously it includes travel writers, but and, you know, traditional ones too working for magazines and newspapers, but also people working in public relations in travel, and also a growing band of people like me, who are members as, quote unquote digital influencers. None of us particularly love that term. But we have also failed to come up with something better. So digital influencers we are. So there was various presentations and sessions and social events. And it was fabulous fun, because they’re all wonderful, like-minded, really fascinating people. In terms of thoughtful travel, I have to say I was really pleased to hear lots of people talking about various aspects of thoughtful travel from slow travel, sustainable travel, travel with a purpose, ways to meet locals, lots of really great, great stuff. So I thought that was very encouraging.

Amanda Kendle 18:36
And we also had a keynote address by none other than the founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler, which was a lot of fun. And we had the annual awards night, which involves lots of excitement, lots of lovely people winning awards, plenty of dancing, maybe a couple of drinks, maybe a couple more. But anyway, it was a whirlwind kind of 48 hours. For me and for the podcast, that convention is a really great chance to network with all these fabulous like-minded people. And out of that I have definitely snaffled a few great guests. So watch out over the coming months. Also a bunch of ideas for new topics, and, you know, just some new stuff for the podcast. So I’m looking forward to sharing all of that.

Amanda Kendle 19:22
That was basically it, I then spent a few hours on the final day, lounging around by the pool, it was after the awards night, so I didn’t have energy for too much else, I must admit, I did get into town briefly. And then it was back home to Perth and back into real life. And I’m still trying to come to terms with that. It’s always the problem after a trip, isn’t it. But anyway, that just sums up the last bit of that Cairns experience for you.

Amanda Kendle 19:50
And so ends my Cairns and Queensland podcast diary. It’s been an interesting experiment for me to be recording this along the way and I found it quite fun. So I hope you did as well. I must also give a quick shout out to Tourism Tropical North Queensland for hosting all of us and to the fabulous hotel we got to stay in the Riley it’s part of the Crystalbrook Collection, quite new and it’s got a couple of other new Crystalbrooks opening in Cairns very soon. You know, I’m not normally a hotel person. I actually loved this one which is very unusual for me. My standards are very very high not because I need like crazy luxury but because I’d really just rather stay in an Airbnb or in some apartment somewhere or I don’t know. But this, the Riley was amazing. Please stay there if you’re going to Cairns.

Amanda Kendle 20:41
I also want to give a shout out to all of the fabulous people from the Australian Society of Travel Writers or ASTW because I have been so thrilled to be so welcomed into that group. Last year when I went to Bangkok for the first time to join the ASTW convention for the first time I was dead nervous that they would all hate me. It was the first year that they had had digital influencers as members and I was the only one present last year and apart from the delightful Dan Avila, I was the only person from Perth, didn’t know too many people at all. And I had to speak on the very first morning about blogging, which I thought maybe there might be some resistance to it from traditional writers. However, all my fears were unfounded. And they were the loveliest bunch of people. And not only that, this time, my second go around, I felt so welcomed. I had all these people who I really admire, come up and say hello, and it was just really fabulous. So ASTW people, thank you very, very much. I’m just, you know, cannot thank you enough for welcoming new people like me and this year to have more of my Perth buddies over there as well was extra special, and I know we all felt really, really welcome. So that is it. Just a little plug for my fellow ASTW people.

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