The lastminute lovelies in TNQ

There’s not much that gets me out of bed at 4:30am, but with the prospect of a long weekend in Tropical North Queensland ahead, I bounce out.

The lastminute lovelies are facing a dash of adventure, a splash of relaxation and a pinch of pampering… Poor us!

Helicopter - Ride to Great Barrier Reef

Our ride to the outer reef – GBR Helicopters

Arriving in Cairns after a leisurely flight north from Sydney – less than three hours, just long enough to devour the latest issue of Marie Claire – we’re greeted at the airport by the friendly crew from GBR Helicopters. A quick safety briefing and we’re up, up and away, soaring above Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas (you should see the view of the GIGANTIC Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas pool!), before heading straight out to sea and the Great Barrier Reef. It’s majestic, with garlands of turquoise and navy dotting the sea. What a way to arrive.

We land at the Quicksilver pontoon at Agincourt Reef, a ribbon of coral that hugs the very edge of Australia’s Continental Shelf. The pontoon is a veritable aqua village, and a fabulous base from which to explore the Reef. Think diving, snorkelling, glass bottom boats… So we grab stinger suits, snorkels and flippers, channelling Cathy Freeman or Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (rrrawwww), and hit the blue. The water is 27 degrees and crystal clear, and there are fish EVERYWHERE! It’s a kaleidoscope of colour, and absolutely gorgeous. It’s what we’ve come to see, and boy do we see it – turtles, clown fish, anemone and coral trout, the rainbow jewels of this underwater treasure trove. Wow.

Quicksilver Pontoon - Angicort Reef

Quicksilver Pontoon – Angicort Reef

After a full day on the pontoon, including a gorgeous lunch and relaxing boat ride back to shore (complete with wine and cheese, yum!), we’re exhausted. Lucky, then, that we check into what may well be the most tranquil accommodation on earth – Thala Beach Lodge. A five star resort surrounded by beach and rainforest, this incredible slice of heaven was the setting for Daniel Johns and Natalie Imbruglia’s wedding, and has also played host to everyone from Darryl Hannah to Richard Branson. Hey, if it’s good enough for old Dickie Bird… That night we’re treated to dinner at Thala’s wonderful onsite restaurant, Osprey’s, before retreating to the privacy of our secluded bungalows. Heaven.

Next morning, we set off to explore one of Tropical North Queensland’s most iconic wonders, the gorgeous Daintree Rainforest. At an incredible 135 million years old, the Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world, and home to plants and animals that you won’t find anywhere else on earth. You can sea kayak, mountain bike, bush walk, or even go jungle surfing through the canopy. The lastminute lovelies, however, opt for something a little more low key – a cooling dip in Mossman Gorge’s amazing freshwater swimming holes. It’s a scene as picturesque as any that we’ve experienced – the tumbling Mossman River, imposing giant granite boulders and verdant mountains rising sharply from the river banks. This is the stuff that Facebook pics are made of.

Cool and calm and totally rejuvenated, we head for Cairns. We’re shacking up at the Shangri-La, a luxurious hotel overlooking where you can expect chic rooms, great service and a fabulous location. Our pick for soaking up the the marina and the sea views is from Ba8 lounge bar (surprise surprise), where we head for some pre-dinner drinks and nibbles. Hey, all that swimming makes a gal thirsty!

Appetite well and truly whet, we wander down the boardwalk towards Salt House and our dinner. As glamorous as it is chilled out, this is Cairns’ coolest restaurant, although it’s equal parts bar and entertainment venue. Whatever it is, the food is sub-lime, and the cocktails ain’t bad either.

lastminute lovely Courtney taking some photos

lastminute lovely Courtney taking in the views

Reluctantly, we head home to bed at a very reasonable hour, because we’re in for another early start. This time, it’s not a plane we’re getting up for, but a hot air balloon ride. Huzzah! Bleary eyed but crazy excited, we meet the Hot Air team outside the Shangri-La and board a bus for neighbouring Mareeba, the hot air balloon capital of the world. Here, we jump into the basket and gasp as we rise and rise, floating on air – both literally and figuratively – as we sail above the gorgeous Atherton Tablelands. It is hands down one of the most amazing experiences of our lives, and we immediately understand why so many people choose this moment to pop the big question.

It’s the perfect end to the perfect weekend – Tropical North Queensland has been the very best of hosts, and we absolutely can’t wait to come back. The perfect destination for couples, families, girls, boys… This gorgeous region has. it. all.

The lastminute lovelies xox

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