First in series from Queensland, Australia
A giant clam, which is a mollusk as big as a bear, opens wide to catch the sunlight. It sits on the shallow ocean floor at the Great Barrier Reef, where famed explorer Captain Cook scraped some serious wood off the bottom of his ship, the Endeavour, trying to squeeze through the coral in 1770.
Nearby, along the coast of Queensland, Australia’s northeastern state, rain drips from the fronds of prehistoric ferns; cave drawings and paintings describe ancient birthing procedures, and, in a town named for Cook, a local museum and annual reenactments celebrate the exploits of sailors from Europe nearly 250 years ago.
If you are among the many travelers from the Americas headed for cruises around Australia (remember that winters here are summers there), consider a pre- or post-trip of at least several days to Queensland.
While a few cruise ships occasionally stop at Queensland’s small ports, chances are that yours will not. As Captain Cook learned, this part of Australia is not an easy reach if you are sailing anywhere else.
Your check list
A few hours in any of these small ports would not allow enough time to get you where you will want to go:
Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef (to check off a giant clam from your bucket list).
Exploring a bit in Daintree National Park where scientists have discovered flora which they had thought was extinct.
Learning about Cook and taking a guided tour into the rocky hills that are sacred to indigenous people.
And, if your pockets are deep enough, some R and R at the granddaddy of rich people’s retreats, Lizard Island.
Australia is huge, of legendary size, and on a pre-trip, before my cruise out of Sydney, I missed Brisbane and Melbourne, Perth and Darwin, Adelaide and the rock called Uluru. Instead, I spent a week in northern Queensland, the one part of Australia that eluded Bill Bryson as he was researching his excellent book, “In a Sunburned Country.”
Later, when I told Australians where I had been, to Daintree and Cooktown and Lizard Island, they were, to a person, envious, which is a pretty good indication that I had made a wise choice.
Next: Cairns, a town where the crocs keep the beaches empty
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com
Excerpts from this blog series appeared in David Molyneaux's monthly cruise column in the Miami Herald.