Traveling to Australia: The Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas, Daintree Rainforest & Cairns

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-39Port Douglas

As I mentioned in the first part of this trip recap, my boyfriend and I had no plans or reservations when we arrived in Australia. February is the south of Australia’s summer (perfect weather—warm/hot, not humid), but in the north (think Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands), it’s the rainy season. We felt like we couldn’t leave Australia without doing the GBR, so when I checked the weather forecast Tuesday morning in Sydney and saw that there were a stretch of sunny days coming up around Cairns, we booked a flight up north for that very afternoon. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-21

Travel tip: As recommended by our Aussie friend, we used WebJet to search for flights while there. Typically, either JetStar, Qantas or Virgin Australia would end up offering the cheapest flight options within Australia.

One thing we noticed about flying within Australia was that they board the front the back of the plane at the same time, through two different entrances. WHY DON’T YOU DO THIS, AMERICA?! I know in the US the thought is to board window seats before aisle seats, but it’s always boggled my mind that the back of the plane isn’t boarded first to avoid aisle jams. Am I right or amiright??

Port Douglas

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-37Every person we talked to had the same thoughts on Cairns: mehhh (their words–not mine!). Put off by that, we decided to stay in Port Douglas instead of using Cairns as our home base for the Great Barrier Reef. From the airport, we took a shuttle van (in retrospect, we should have rented a car—would have been cheaper) to Port Douglas, a small vacation town about an hour’s drive north. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-23 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-40

After some quick searching on Trip Advisor for affordable—but quality—hotels, we decided on Martinique on Macrossan, a boutique hotel that we loved! The owners were so sweet and helpful with guiding our plans, and our room had a kitchen, living room and balcony, making for a comfortable two-night stay. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-45

Because it’s the off-season up north, Port Douglas was very quiet, and a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season. There were a few options serving up your basic bar food menu, but my boyfriend and I are both picky about healthy food, so we ended up going grocery shopping and making most of our meals in our hotel room’s kitchen while there. I’d imagine it’s a totally different scene in Port Douglas during tourist season!

The Daintree Rainforest

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-35On our first full day, we rented a car and drove north to check out the Daintree Rainforest. From Port Douglas, you can make a nice little day out of the rainforest, slowly driving your way north along the coast, stopping at beautiful secluded beaches along the way, getting in a little hiking, checking out a crocodile tour and even zip-lining through the rainforest (we didn’t do those last two things, but they came recommended). traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-46

Our first stop was Mossman Gorge. We did about an hour’s worth of hiking (in flip-flops…oops), taking a few stops to jump in the water on our own, and ending at the largest opening for swimming with the rest of the tourists. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-25 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-26 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-27 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-28 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-29

When we made it back to our car, we continued north, and whenever we saw a sign for a beach, would pull off the road to check it out. The beaches were all down little dirt roads and a short walk through the woods. I don’t know if it was because we were there in the rainy season, but they were all completely empty—it was amazing! We’d have an entire jaw-droppingly beautiful beach to ourselves. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-30 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-31 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-32 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-33

We ended up exploring the coast like this until late into the afternoon when we figured we should turn around and start making our way back to Port Douglas. If we hadn’t stopped at so many beaches along the way, we could have gone a little deeper into Daintree and done guided tours of the rainforest, but oh well—we had fun doing our own thing and felt we got enough hiking in around the gorge.

The Great Barrier Reef

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-44Our last day in Port Douglas, we set out for a tour of the Great Barrier Reef—by far the most touristy thing we did while traveling. As recommended by the owners of our hotel, we signed up for an all-day boat cruise with Quicksilver Cruises that would drop us off at three different reef locations for snorkeling and diving.

We were on the fence about paying the extra money to scuba dive, but I’m glad we didn’t. The three locations we stopped at were definitely chosen with snorkelers in mind—shallow with tons of fish towards the top of the reef.

The boat took off around 9AM and took us about an hour out to sea to our first location. There honestly wasn’t much difference between the three spots, but it was nice having the diving broken up into three excursions so that we could have snack breaks and some relaxing sun bathing on the boat. The tour company also served us up a hearty buffet-style lunch. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-41 traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-43

The Great Barrier Reef is gorgeous, and I was blown away at just how many fish there were—it’s like the Manhattan of sea life! Now don’t get me wrong, we loved it; but to be honest, I felt a little underwhelmed considering this is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I’ve done some equally beautiful snorkeling right in Mexico! To be fair though, the GBR is massive—I’m sure we didn’t go to the most beautiful part of it. Had we chartered a seaplane to take us out to the most remote reef with trained scuba divers, I’m sure we would have been stunned. traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-42

Beautiful nonetheless, and we even saw a couple baby reef sharks!

Cairns … But Really Just Gilligan’s

traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-47This part of the trip was hilarious. The night we got back from our GBR boat tour, we decided to take the shuttle van back to Cairns and spend the night so we could catch an early fight back to Sydney the next day. We didn’t know where to stay, but I remembered my friend saying she’d stayed at a hostel called Gilligan’s when she was traveling through Cairns. Now when she was in Australia, she had just graduated college—a very, um, different time in one’s life than where I am now. But that didn’t really cross my mind when I booked us a room…

We roll up to Gilligan’s, and at first I think we’ve just accidently been dropped off at a strip club. The outside is plastered with pictures of half naked girls funneling beers and wrestling in petroleum jelly (I’m not exaggerating even a little bit), and there was the loud thudding sound of bass spilling out into the street at like 7PM. What in the…

Turns out Gilligan’s isn’t just a hostel—it’s one of the biggest nightclubs in Cairns. In fact, it’s really just a nightclub that happens to have communal bedrooms attached to it. LOLLOLLOL

We were definitely two of the oldest people staying there (womp womp), but it didn’t take long for us to embrace it. Up until that point in our trip, we had been so nonstop go-go-go during the day that we went to bed early every night, totally pooped. So when we realized we had accidently booked a room at Australia’s number one party hostel, we just kinda looked at each other and went, “OK, let’s get weird.”

And we definitely did. Surrounded by 18 year olds, I decided to drink like an 18 year old, and heavily paid the price the next day haha. I hate being hungover on vacations because you waste the whole day, but luckily it was down pouring all morning so I didn’t feel too guilty about sleeping in.

We didn’t get to do much exploring of Cairns before heading back to Sydney, but we heard there’s great white water rafting in the area and I wish we’d looked into doing that. Oh well, next time! traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-34Welp, there you have it! It was an amazing two weeks, and so nice to be able to take a break from reality and just enjoy ourselves. I didn’t realize how much I needed a vacation until we went! And the icing on the cake was that the trip was perfectly timed so that we missed all the snow storms Boston got slammed with–well, except for the last one. That one occurred just as we were trying to fly back, which resulted in all our flights getting cancelled and re-routed. We ended up having to fly from Sydney to San Francisco to Detroit (spent the night in Detroit) to Minneapolis to Newark (spent another night in Newark) and FINALLY to Boston. Meanwhile our bags went to Atlanta. It was such a disaster that it was funny. Look at how many boarding passes it took us to get home: traveling-to-australia-sydney-cairns-59Good. Times. signature


30-Minute Rowing Workout

30-Minute Rowing WorkoutThis is a fun one! It’s also a workout you can use to track your progress with rowing and cardiovascular endurance in general (you’ll see what I mean below). If you’re new to rowing, you may want to bookmark/pin this workout for later and wait for me to post a how-to guide for proper rowing form, which is coming soon.

I had my 6:45AM Row class yesterday at Btone Wellesley do a very similar workout and they crushed it!

30-Minute Rowing Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • WaterRower GX (these machines are AWESOME, but obviously just use whatever rower you have access to!)


I use the Indo-Row intensity scale (kind of), which I’ve modified below. So all the numbers you see in this workout (22-40) refer to strokes per minute. It’s just a way to quantify “easy,” “medium,” “hard” and “everything you’ve got.” On the WaterRower console, it’s the big number in the middle, and it’s how you gauge your current work intensity. Rowing Intensity Scale (30-Minute Rowing Workout) WaterRower GX Console (30-Minute Rowing Workout)

In the picture above, I’ve highlighted the numbers on the WaterRower console we’ll worry about for this particular workout. Every rowing machine will vary, which is fine—you really only need a way to track time and distance. You don’t really even need to know your strokes per minute; just go at your perceived “easy,” “medium,” “hard,” and “race pace.”

This workout will get your heart rate UP there—rowing at race pace is intense. So that being said, if you have any health issues, consult your doctor before taking on this kind of cardio load. The graphic below is good for quick reference or printing out for the gym, but (especially if you’re newer to rowing) it’s probably best to read the fuller descriptions below as well. 30-Minute Rowing Workout

Warm Up | Spend 1 min at each stroke rate: 24, 26, 28, 26, 24 (upping intensity and then reducing it).

Tabata Wave | Perform 8 rounds of 20 sec hard intensity (28) and 10 sec recovery pace (<24). This will take you 4 minutes total.

Short Race Intervals | You’ll do four 100-meter sprints at a race pace (30+). Spend 30 sec at easy pressure (24) in between each sprint.

  • Your goal is to be under 25 seconds for each of your 100-m sprints (beginners, under 30 sec). My record is 18 seconds, but I’ve had a student do it in 17—what a beast! These numbers are good parameters for the ladies—guys, your times will be lower.

Timed Race Pyramid | Go as far as you can go in 2 minutes, 90 seconds, 1 minute, and then 30 seconds. Rest for 30-60 seconds in between each interval (think of each interval as one leg of the race).

  • Write down your distance at the end of each interval. When you’re done, add up your total distance traveled in the four legs of the race. Your goal is to be over 1,000m in total, but shoot for the 1,300s!
  • You’ll have a breathless feeling by the last stretches of the long intervals (rowing at race pace for 2 minutes is NO joke). If you don’t, you weren’t pushing hard enough. So that being said…
  • These numbers are just for guidance and not set in stone—listen to your body! In general, race pace is anything above “full pressure” (28). If it’s a quick race (100m, 30 seconds, etc.), you’ll want that number anywhere from mid 30’s to mid 40’s, depending on fitness level. For longer races (over 60 sec, over 200m, etc.), consider pacing yourself a bit and pulling back by a couple digits.

Cool Down | Spend 1 min at each pace: 26, 24, 22 strokes per minute.

30-Minute Rowing Workout

 WEARING | leggings: Lululemon (out of stock, but similar ones here and here) / tank: Brandy Melville (similar here) / sneakers: Nike (similar here)

30-minute Rowing WorkoutRevisit this workout—specifically the timed race pyramid—and try to beat your previous numbers. Having times and distances as benchmarks is paramount in keeping me motivated and engaged with rowing workouts.

Do you row? What’s your favorite way to use a rower in your workouts? signature SHOP A SIMILAR LOOK:

15-Minute Towel (or Slider) Workout

At Home Towel/Slider WorkoutI hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I spent mine up in Maine with my dad relaxing at the house and snowmobiling. It’s so pretty up here!

A photo posted by Nicole Perry (@nicoleperr) on


I have one more towel/slider workout today and then I’ll relax with all these faux-megaformer moves, promise. :)

15-Minute Towel (or Slider) Workout

Equipment I Used:

Set a timer for 15 rounds of 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. I know 10 seconds isn’t very long—it’s basically just giving you enough time to set up for the next exercise. If you’re a beginner, you can change the interval lengths (maybe do 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest). You’ll go through the following five exercises three times. At Home Towel/Slider Workout

Sliding Side-to-Back-to-Curtsey Lunges (Right) |

Your right leg will be the base leg; the towel will go under your left foot. Starting in a standing position, slide the left leg straight out to the left, bending your right knee down into a side lunge. Press through the right heel to come back up to standing and then transition smoothly into a back lunge, sliding the left foot back behind you as you bend the right knee. Again, press through that right heel to rise back up to standing and then slide the left foot to the right, shooting the left leg behind the right foot as you bend the right knee down into a curtsey lunge. Press back to standing and start from the top of the sequence.

Form cues to keep in mind:

  • The right knee should never stick out farther than the toes. To achieve this, think of sitting your hips and bum back into the lunges as you lower.
  • At the top of each lunge (when you’re standing), try not to lock your right knee straight. Keep a soft micro bend in it so that the muscles are still working (rather than shifting your bodyweight into a locked joint).
  • Keep your bodyweight in the right heel. The left foot is supporting little—if any—of your bodyweight.

Siding Side-to-Back-to-Curtsey Lunges (Left) |

Army Crawls |

These are fun! Well…”fun”. You know what I mean. :) The move is called Lizard in Lagree Fitness and it’s the feet that stay still while you move the carriage with your forearms (everyone loves to hate this move). Off the machine, put your feet on a towel and get into a plank with your forearms at the end of an exercise mat. Army crawl your way up the length of the mat, one forearm in front of the other, maintaining the plank position as you slide forward. When you can no longer go any farther forward, reverse the motion, crawling your forearms backward towards the starting edge of the mat. As you move, try to keep your hips level in a plank. They’ll want to dip side to side with each step of the forearms; use your core strength to stabilize them. Beginners: you can do these from your knees, just make sure to add an extra towel for padding.

Hip Bridge Heel Sliders |

Start in a bridge position, feet on a towel stacked underneath your knees, shoulders, neck and head resting on the ground with arms by your side. Squeeze your glutes and core to lift your hips off the ground so that from shoulders to knees is a straight, diagonal line. From this starting position, start to slide your feet out, straightening your legs and rolling onto your heels. Try to keep your butt off the ground, even at your farthest extension. When you’ve gone as low as you can comfortably go, drag your heels inward, coming to a flat foot as you slide your feet back to the starting position. A note about form: This goes for any hip bridge exercise, but especially when you’re adding in these sliding hamstring curls: you don’t want to overextend your low back. It’s the smallest change in position (as you can see below), but think of it as the difference between engaging and not engaging your abs. In the picture to the left, I’m engaging the backside of my body to keep my hips lifted: squeezing my glutes and back, but not activating the front of my core. You can tell by the slight upward arch of my midsection. In the picture to the right, I’ve engaged my whole core, pulling my abs in tight with a slight upward tuck of the pelvis. My low back is not over-stressed, and the top of my body forms a straight diagonal line. Hip Bridge Exercise - tips for proper form Beginners: you can do these from a crab bridge position (think of the crab walk you used to do as a kid). Support yourself on your hands instead of resting shoulders on the floor, keep your hips lifted, and slide the feet out and in from this all-fours position. 

Windshield Wipers in Plank |

Start in a forearm plank position with feet on a towel, shoulders stacked over elbows. From here, you’re going to swish both feet to the left, squeezing the left sidebody. Swish them back to center, then to the right. Continue: left, center, right, center. Maybe my floor just was a little sticky, but these had to be one-part slide, one-part hop for me in order to get a full range of movement. Keep this exercise in mind, too, if you struggle with windshield wipers laying on your back. At Home Towel/Slider Workout - just 15 minutes long!

WEARING | tank & leggings: Fabletics // sneakers: Nike (similar here)