Disclosure: We get a commission for some links on this website. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
This post is part of our Australia/New Zealand Series. You can find the rest of the series here.
The second day of our trip started at the Sydney airport. After our overnight flight from LAX to SYD, we needed to catch one more flight to Cairns. Between flights, we had four hours to chill in the Sydney airport. The Qantas lounge provided a nice escape from the hustle and bustle. Join us for the last leg of this 30+ hour journey!
- Air Travel/Transportation – How we got there and how we got around
- Accommodations – Where we stayed
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
After our flight from LAX landed at the Sydney airport, we had to clear customs and immigration. The flight attendants coached us through the process, so we were able to hit the ground running… literally. Australia uses “smart gates” to expedite the process of entering the country. Kiosks are positioned down the terminal upon exiting the plane. We simply scanned our passports, answered a couple questions, and got a ticket. Then, we put that ticket into a smart gate device. It scanned our faces and gave a big green check. Done and done! Time elapsed from landing to clearing customs: 15 minutes!
Qantas Business Lounge
With four hours to burn before our next flight, we headed to the Qantas lounge. Qantas offers two lounges in the domestic terminal at SYD – one for economy, and one for business. Both have a moderately strict, “smart casual” dress code. Basically, no flip flops or beachwear. I took advantage of the lounge showers to clean up and refresh after a long day of flying.
The rest of the time, we used the free wi-fi to check in with family. We also enjoyed some coffee creations at the little coffee bar. The barista was great, and he whipped up some delicious caffeinated drinks. I visited the buffet for a toasted ham & cheese breakfast sandwich. The Qantas business lounge is a great spot to spend a few hours at SYD.
Qantas Business Class – Final Leg of MCI-LAX-SYD-CNS
Our final flight of the outbound trip (see #1 and #2) was a 2.5 hour ride from Sydney to Cairns. We booked this leg by simply calling American Airlines customer service and adding it to our existing MCI-LAX-SYD itinerary for no additional cost.
The Qantas domestic business class cabin is similar to US domestic first class, with a couple notable differences. We had large leather seats with buttons to adjust the level of recline and the footrests. That’s right, these seats had extendable footrests to keep our feet elevated, which I believe helps blood flow. Additionally, the beer selection was far superior to most US flights. They had two craft beer options, and I tried the One Fifty Lashes Pale Ale. It was quite tasty, with hints of tropical fruit hops. They also serve a meal in business class. We both opted for the salad with roasted duck… mmm!
Doubletree Cairns – 3 nights/30,000 HHonors Points per night
Once our flight touched down in Cairns (pronounced “CANS”… trust me, I’ve been corrected a lot), we grabbed a cab for the 10-minute ride to downtown. We checked into the Doubletree Cairns (full review here) and dropped our bags in the room. They provided a fruit platter and a bottle of bubbly, which we enjoyed on our balcony overlooking the water.
Around sunset time, we decided to walk along the waterfront esplanade. This boardwalk stretches along the water’s edge to the Cairns Marina. During our walk, we passed by a large public swimming area called the Lagoon. Its prominent feature is a magnificent metallic fish statue that doubles as a fountain. The vibe around the Lagoon is friendly and laid back. Street performers play all kinds of music, while locals and travelers gather around BBQ grills to share a meal.
We walked past the Lagoon, down a tree-canopy walkway, to the main strip of downtown. Here we explored the Night Market, which is mostly cheap souvenirs and street food. We also found a wide variety of restaurants in this area, including Turkish, Thai, Italian, and even a Bavarian Bierhaus. The whole street was bustling with activity, even on a Sunday night.
Dinner – Grill’d Burgers
Out of the plethora of restaurant options, we decided to have dinner at Grill’d Burgers. We shared a Sweet Chili Chicken sandwich with sweet potato “chips.” Grill’d bills itself as an eclectic burger shop, and they also support local environmental efforts. They serve a fantastic sandwich, and the staff was extremely friendly.
Fair warning – DO NOT mix up the sweet chili sauce with the hot chili sauce! The latter is hot as FIRE! According to the guy at the counter, we were not the first people to make this mistake. He happily offered a replacement sweet chili dipping sauce for our sweet potato chips.
We definitely enjoyed our first experience with Qantas, both in the lounge and on the flight. Cairns is a very cool, albeit tourist-heavy town. If you find yourself in the area, you should enjoy a leisurely stroll along The Esplanade and take a dip in the Lagoon.