Ten Days in Australia

By Kate Riley February 3, 2016

I’ve waited two months to write about my trip to Australia because it was so amazing I’m still processing it all. Since I was a kid I’ve wanted to go there, I grew up on Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin as the two on screen personalities that made me fall in love with the “accent” and over the years I’ve read stories and met many Australians who talked about the beauty and adventure that exists in their country. I have two cousins that grew up in California but now live in and are married to Australians and their stories and pictures further stimulated my desire to visit.

Australia was thrilling, there was never a dull moment and so many fantastic beach days and wildlife encounters. The family spent 10 days exploring various cities in Queensland and New South Wales along the east coast, we spent 3 days in Cairns, flew by plane to spend 3 days in Brisbane/Gold Coast, spent 1 day driving from Gold Coast to Sydney, and finished with 3 full days in Sydney before we flew home to California and we loved EVERY minute. I took hundreds of pictures but today I’m just sharing the highlights.

 australia trip

We rented a car for our entire stay in Australia. We got the hang of driving on the left side of the road after spending a week in New Zealand before arriving. Our first adventure took us out on a boat trip out of Port Douglas to the Great Barrier Reef. #bucketlist

We are not certified for scuba so we couldn’t go out into the deep water, but the snorkeling was great, we saw giant sea turtles, little reef sharks, so many fish and coral, and a venomous sea snake, yikes! But it was thrilling to spend a day at the beach and in the water.

 cairns ferry

 cairns water adventures

 cairns boat

 snorkeling great barrier reef


 matt great barrier reef


During our stay in Cairns, we rented a 2 bedroom place on Trinity Beach, they had an area netted off just beyond our condo for swimming since jellyfish (“stingers”) are in the water in November.

Trinity Beach is a small coastal resort with a lot of vacation villas. It was close to everything with a gorgeous ocean view, I spent every morning walking the coast with my coffee in hand, these are two cell phone pics I snapped while the family snoozed, I simply can’t sleep in on a beach vacation, I must get up early and feel the sand between my toes!

 trinity beach

 view of ocean

The next day took us up the road 20 minutes to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures and this place ranks top on our list of favorites. It was AMAZING. Hartley’s is an outdoor preserve that allows you to get up REALLY close to the wildlife.

Can I just pause for a moment and say that crocodiles scare the bloody hell out of me. You too I imagine. So at Hartley’s I couldn’t believe how close you could get to the salt and freshwater crocs with only a fence to separate you. They have a lagoon with a boat reminiscent of the Disneyland Jungle Cruise except crikey, the crocs around the boat are REAL.

In between visiting the tame animal habitats, we watched two croc shows, one was a feeding where we learned all about their biology and natural habitat, at another show they demonstrated how crocs lurk under the murky water then JUMP out, OH MY GOD, and then they showed us at the attack show the underwater death roll, you can watch this one on You Tube which also shows it too. Wow.

 croc feed 4

 croc feeding


At Hartley’s there were a lot of cute critters that you needn’t be afraid of, in fact you’re welcome to pet them! Kangaroos, koalas, wallabys, and more. We fell in love with a harmless water dragon that hung around the cafe, I loved the pattern on his reptile skin. I was able to get up so close to so much of the wildlife, it was the best animal habitat I’ve ever been to.

 kate kanga

These next two poses kill me.



 shy wallaby


 sleepy koala

 water dragon

Another place that’s big on the list of things to do in Cairns is visit the Kuranda Village in the rainforest. You can take a train or a gondola, both are popular ways to get to Kuranda Village, but we didn’t want to spend the money and time so we drove our car to the top to walk around the village. There is an animal habitat where you can see crocs, pet kangaroos, and hold a koala, also a shopping mecca where you can buy Australian made goods.

The highlight was the Butterfly Sanctuary in a gorgeous conservatory filled with thousands of fluttering butterflies and tropical foliage (it reminded me so much of this one in Niagara Falls).

 butterfly garden aviary

 kuranda butterfly

 butterfly fred

 milkweed feeding butterflies

 kuranda fern



  1. I have a good friend for Australian. She agrees about your love of her country. Gorgeous pictures! You packed a lot of adventure into your trip. The wild life looks amazing but the crocs would have to get a ‘no thank you’ from me.

  2. You just convinced me to add Australia to my family’s bucket list. :) Thank you for sharing these amazing pictures!

  3. I’ve been waiting patiently to see your experiences in Aus. I love hearing other people’s reflections of our beautiful country. We are in Adelaide but have travelled around most of our wonderful country and do feel so lucky to live here. On the other hand, our kids are very keen to visit the USA and narrowing down our ports of call/points of interest over there is REALLY hard!
    I hope you do get to come back again and visit Melbourne (my home town) – a bit more multicultural and cosmopolitan compared to coastal Sydney and Brisbane.
    We are off to Fiji in April for my sister’s wedding and a 10 day vacation.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Kate! Austrailia is on my must-visit list. I just need to figure out how to sneak a wombat back home!

  5. So glad you enjoyed Australia, especially my hometown, Sydney. Port Douglas is one of my favourite Aus destinations, we go every year with the kids to just chill on the beach & slow down to the tropical pace (going Troppo we call it!). It’s so cool that you drove from The Gold Coast to Sydney. Such a great way to see a place. It’s an especially scenic drive down that northern NSW as you found. You would also love the Great Ocean Rd out of Melbourne, so you must do that next time! My bucket list for Australian destinations includes the red center (especially Uluru, aka Ayers Rock) as well as the Kimberley’s, Kings Canyon & Kakadu wetlands. But I love traveling abroad as well, and we have so much on our doorstep here with Asia & the South Pacific nearby. I hope you visit again soon! Anne, Sydney, Australia xx

    • Definitely do the red centre Anne. We drove Adelaide to Darwin and back in Sep/Oct last year and took in Kakadu, Katherine, Alice, Uluru etc. it was a bucket list adventure for me and I am wanting to go back again this year as we didn’t have enough time to do the Olgas and Kings Canyon. We’ve done most of the east coast and travelled across the Nullarbor to Perth then travelled the south of WA. There really is so much to see here.

  6. Very cool! My brother lives in Manly and has a cafe and pizza place. I’ve been debating visiting him from FL with my two young kids. We would have a total of 12 days travel time but i’m worried about the jet leg. How did your kids do?

    • Hello JZ, the trip there was not hard, we slept on the flight that took us there, so we had minimal jet lag. The trip back was harder it took a full 48 hours just to get used to sleeping on PST again and the next few days it improved but the kids did bounce back eventually :)

  7. I’m so glad that you enjoyed Australia. I live on the Gold Coast and sometimes take the natural beauty for granted. It’s nice to see our country through fresh eyes. You have made me want to go explore my own backyard now :)

  8. Such a great post (and trip) Kate! I loved all your pics and I can’t wait until we can finally get there. Both New Zealand and Aus are at the top of our bucket list. So glad you all had such an amazing trip! Hugs :)

  9. Thank you Kate. We were there 20 years, yes! 20 years ago and we did just about everything you mentioned. It’s so good to hear good things stay timeless and don;t change.

  10. Looks like an awesome time! I was wondering what lense(s) you used on your trip. The pictures are beautiful! I have had trouble finding a good general purpose lense.

  11. Thank you for visiting us Kate. I am especially glad you had a wonderful time in Queensland. Brisbane this week is a hot 37 degrees, humid and wet so I’d say your timing was perfect!

  12. Loved reading about your adventures Kate, I could really sense the happiness in your words. What a fantastic opportunity for you and your lovely family. We would also love to visit Australia one day so I’ll be sure to check back for your tips!

  13. You take the most amazing pictures while on holidays! Thanks for sharing. I remember some you shared from Hawaii (In hope I’m not confusing blogs :) ) and they made me want to go there so much! Still haven’t been but I know I will!!! All the best from sunny Portugal!

  14. Being an Aussie who lives here in the States, reading this made me homesick and proud of my beautiful country. You touched on the highlights of home and as you saw 10 days in Australia is just a drop in the bucket. I’m from Melbourne and hope you get there one day. We are planning to visit home in 2017 it will be a 4 week trip. Much needed to see family and be a tourist in our own country. Thank you for sharing this.

  15. I am with you on waking up early to walk the beach, never missing a moment of that quiet beauty. <3 I loved reading of your family's vacation. I'm sure the kids will cherish it for years to come.

  16. I’m so jealous. Australia is on my bucket list. The prints on the water dragon and butterflies are beautiful. Will we be seeing them in a Kate Ruley print? ?

    • Ha, yes there may be some influences in the Spring collection – travel definitely inspires me like that!

  17. So glad you loved Australia. I love it too but am biased because I live in Brisbane. We have a water dragon that hangs out around our pool every morning and between October and April we are sometimes lucky to have a koala in the gum tree in our backyard. I wake up every morning to the sound of some very noisy birds but crave this sound when I am overseas. It is a wild and beautiful country!

  18. Wow looks like an amazing trip!! Thanks for sharing that all!! So cute that you got to hold a koala!!! #bucketlist. Looks beautiful there!!

    Lauren | Lovely Decor

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