The dolphins, a Big Cat and plenty of scenery were all on show in Cairns, writes Mike O’Connor.

We were too early for Migaloo the white humpback whale but the dolphins he played with when he frolicked off Green Island last August turned up on schedule.

Two of them picked up our Great Adventures Big Cat cruise boat 20 minutes into our 40 minute trip from Cairns wharf and stayed with us until we were a few hundred metres from the island jetty.

Green Island is situated in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef Maritime Park and is a popular day trip destination for both locals and visitors.

It’s not a big island, 12 hectares in total, but is fringed by a dazzling, white sand beach and the surrounding waters on the day we visited were as clear as pale blue crystal.

We snorkeled with the gear provided by the crew, took a self-guided tour of the island and found a stretch of sand, laid out our towels and soaked up the warmth while the kids swam.

Another one day trip that no visitor to Cairns should miss is the trip to Kuranda, travelling up by Skyrail and down by train on the Kuranda Scenic Railway or vice versa.

We went up by Skyrail, the cable car system that climbs from the red soil canefields a short distance outside the Cairns CBD and then drifts slowly over the rainforest to Kuranda.

It’s a 90-minute, 7.5 km journey and the views are spectacular. There are two stations along the way.

At the first, Red Peak, our gondola descended down into the forest and at the next, Barron Falls, we got an excellent view of the Barron Gorge.

Kuranda, perched on the edge of the Atherton Tableland, was once a ‘hippy town’.

It is now firmly established on the tourist trail but retains the rural village charm that first attracted people to it more than 100 years ago.

We did the markets, had lunch on the verandah of the Kuranda Hotel, a true country pub, and then rode the scenic railway back to Cairns.

This 37km ride down the range travels through primeval rainforest and across deep gorges, stopping along the way to allow us to take photographs of the Barron Falls.

On another day we hired a car and drove to Port Douglas, taking in the stunning views along the Captain Cook Highway.

On others,we just enjoyed the facilities of the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort with its lagoon style pool complete with a sandy beach and swim-up bar, or walked along the boardwalk to the Cairns Esplanade where the kids loved swimming in the waterfront lagoon.

Cairns is a unique city bounded by ancient forests and tropical reefs where the warmth of the climate is matched by the friendliness of the people.

Mike and his family were guests of Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort.

Current offer: the Big Cat Family Pak deal includes three nights’ accommodation for two adults and two children, breakfast and a family day reef cruise on Great Adventures Big Cat for $599. Visit: or