|Subject: Re: Australia, OzAdventure Bus + Accommodation|
G,day Ziners, especially Lesley in Toronto.
Cairns is one of my frequent haunts, and Sydney is my home, so I can put in my bit on both counts. Firstly, Christmas in Sydney should be OK - the city is decorated nicely, a big tree in Martin Place, etc, and we tend to be fairly relaxed over this period . . . possibly because the climate is warm but generally not exceedingly hot. My guess is that you will find the area around Circular Quay interesting Christmas eve. Christmas day will be fairly quiet - most folks stay at home.
Cairns, however will be hot and humid. A bit early for the Cyclones, but no swimming in the ocean (deadly box jellyfish are well established by December) but most places have pools. Expect around 90 degrees, 90% and you will not be too surprised. Accommodation is plentiful and varied, from the 5 star (Cairns caters largely for the Asian tourist market) through to motels, which should be quite cheap, and many backpacker places which ARE cheap (and correspondingly bohemian). Try doing some research at http://www.wotif.com or http://lastminute.com I don't need accommodation there, as we have several friends living in Cairns.
The OzExperience buses are good value, definitely geared to backpackers, and therefore have (mostly) gregarious drivers, and seem to have some sort of arrangement with backpacker accommodation at all their stops. It would help if you can play guitar, or at least don't mind a bit of sing-along. My recommendation for seeing the G.B.R painlessly but effectively would be the Quicksilver, which has a moored pontoon on Agincourt Reef, and takes an ocean-going trimaran out (about 2 - 3 hours each way I think) daily. At the pontoon there are scuba and snorkel facilities and instructors, underwater-viewing boats, etc, as well as a pretty good smorgasbord lunch. The only portal to Quicksilver the that I can find is http://bluedtravel.com which has other interesting pages as a bonus. There are other similar operators, but Quicksilver has had a good name for a few years now.
Otherwise, I recommend Port Douglas (an hour or so delightful oceanside drive North of Cairns) and the cableway and/or train ride to Kuranda. Up by cableway, down by train would be an interesting day's outing. Above all, enjoy your time in tropical Queensland. Paul in sunny Sydney