Poor planning on my part meant I had to spend 2 nights in Cairns in between my domestic and international flights. Nobody to blame but myself for this one (I had a brain fart when booking the domestic flights and forgot that the international flight wasn’t scheduled every day), but it did give me a chance to play tourist for a bit.
When I realised my stuff up with the flight schedule, I booked into the Cairns Plaza Hotel. It meant getting in late on a Wednesday night after work, and flying out early on Friday morning, which left me the whole of Thursday to play tourist. It just so happened that the Thursday in question was Christmas Day. Because I’m just that coordinated.
After landing and making my way to the hotel, I pretty much just walked straight down the Esplanade from my hotel to the night markets to find some dinner, because it was getting late, and it was Christmas Eve, so I expected things to start shutting up. Managed to pick up some vegan sushi rolls and a couple of bottles of Coke Zero (for the morning).
As for what to do for Christmas itself…It left me in a bit of a bind, because predictably, almost nothing is open on Christmas Day. Frankly, as an atheist, I don’t actually celebrate religious holidays. For me, December 25th is just another day of the year. Which is why I don’t really care about being stuck on my own for the day. But I appreciate that it actually has some meaning for some people. I’d initially thought of just hanging around at the hotel and doing Christmas lunch there. Except upon making a couple of inquiries, pretty much everyone said they had a set menu or a buffet, and nobody could guarantee me anything except the fruit would be vegan and gluten free. I was not going to pay well over $100 for a lunch that I couldn’t actually eat.
As such, I started looking into other options for the day. I figured Kuranda might be nice, but everything was going to be shut. Eventually I decided that I would book a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef to go diving for the day. I know the day trips out of Cairns are pretty mediocre compared to the liveaboards that go out to Osprey Reef and Cod Hole (which I’ve done a bunch of times in the past), but I only had one day, so a day trip it was. I got in contact with the company who ran the trip to figure out whether I could get vegan and gluten free food on the trip. It was a buffet lunch, but I was told that I would be able to eat salad and fruit. As I’d been told this in advance, I packed a few goodies in my bag (bought before I left home) before getting on the boat that morning. So I had my own corn thins and some sweets that I could eat on board.
Forward planning is your friend when it comes to going out on boats if you have dietary restrictions. Because once you’ve left port, you’re stuck without any shops if you can’t eat any of the food on board. Despite what office staff tell you when you are making inquiries or booking, you have to be prepared for the fact that they might not actually pass the message on to the boat crew on the day. Even if it’s just a box of plain rice crackers or something, always take something to eat with you.
Because this is literally all I could eat…
We got back to Cairns just before dinner time. I was mildly surprised at the number of places open to be honest. Roughly 50% of the restaurants were open for dinner, which was great. I’d walked past a Turkish restaurant the night before and had been hoping it’d be open for Christmas. It was!
Ended up going for a baba ghanoush salad, which was served with Turkish bread (that I obviously just didn’t eat). And OMG, awesome. Seriously, next time I’m in Cairns for work or play, I’m not going to eat anywhere except that restaurant. A good third of the menu is vegan (although most are served with bread which isn’t gluten free, but there’s nothing stopping you just leaving the bread).
I had a fun day on the reef though. The food the boat provided wasn’t great, but some of it was edible. And I got to go diving. All in all, not the worst way to spend a random day in the space-time continuum.
Breakfasts on the 2 mornings I was in Cairns consisted of raw food bars from Woolworths. I’m not much of a breakfast person in general though and really only eat it because I have to take dietary supplements and other medications with food.