This luxury hotel is perfectly positioned for day trips to the Great Barrier Reef, ANGELA SAURINE writes
Shangri-La The Marina in Cairns
First impressions count and, walking into our room at Shangri-La The Marina in Cairns, I can’t help being impressed. A tepee is set up for my three-year-old son, Oliver, near the floor-to-ceiling glass doors, which lead out onto the balcony overlooking the marina. It’s the perfect cubby house for him, and he loves playing games of peek-a-boo. On the coffee table, there’s also a bag of lollies for him, a bag of chocolate for me and a bag of popcorn for both of us. The five-star hotel also impresses on the environmental front, with wooden key cards.
Super close to Cairns Esplanade
If you’re planning a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef (which you should be!), the location is as good as it gets. The hotel is only steps from the Reef Fleet Terminal and Marlin Marina, where tours depart, so you shouldn’t have to worry about rushing to get to the boat in time. It’s also super close to Cairns Esplanade, just five minutes’ walk to the centre of Cairns and around 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. The hotel has secure undercover parking, which is great if you are on a driving holiday as it makes it easy to get out and explore.
Views over the marina, Trinity Bay and the mountain ranges beyond
There are 255 rooms and suites, all with private balconies offering views over the marina, Trinity Bay and the mountain ranges beyond, or the hotel’s tropical gardens. When you have young kids, a bath in a hotel room is a must, and ours is nice and deep with views out to the water (the big fluffy, bathmat is a bonus). There’s also a pillow menu, flatscreen TV, tea and coffee-making facilities, an electronic safe, and Wi-Fi.
The Backyard: Everything from burgers, fish tacos and ribeye steak to seafood platters
The hotel’s in-house restaurant, The Backyard, is the kind of place that makes you instantly feel like you’re on holidays. Offering everything from burgers, fish tacos and ribeye steak to seafood platters, the waterfront eatery has ceiling fans, a big deck, and an outdoor area where kids can play on the grass. There are stickers on the floor advising where to stand for social distancing at breakfast and, as the hotel is part of an international chain with many hotels in Asia, all staff wear masks. Room service is also available.
A gym with state-of-the-art cardio training and strength equipment
The outdoor pool, which is partly covered by a shade sail, is surrounded by a sun deck and palm trees, with a separate children’s pool. There are lounges and outdoor furniture on both sides of the pool fence, as well as table tennis and giant chess. The pool bar offers drinks and boxed meals in biodegradable and recyclable cardboard containers. There’s also a gym with state-of-the-art cardio training and strength equipment.
Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and day trips to the Great Barrier Reef
You can book experiences at the tour desk in the lobby, including Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and day trips to the Great Barrier Reef. Sunlover Cruises’ trips to its floating pontoon are a great option for kids as it has a waterslide into the ocean and a touch tank and offers snorkel tours and cruises over the reef in a glass-walled semi-submersible boat. The Frankland Islands reef cruise boasts the shortest open water crossing of any of the Cairns day tour boats, taking you to Normanby Island in the Frankland Islands National Park island group. Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offers both an Indigenous and scientific perspective of the Reef, with cultural presentations including dancing and performing with the didgeridoo and clapsticks filling the time spent cruising to the Reef and back. The hotel is also close to Cairns Esplanade Lagoon — a large, manmade saltwater pool on the foreshore that offers a safe swimming destination, free from stingers and crocodiles. It’s around 10 minutes’ walk to the fantastic Muddy’s Playground, which has a flying fox, sound chimes, a rope bridge, slippery dips, cubby houses, revolving tunnels, a seesaw, and a café.
The writer was a guest of Shangri-La The Marina, Cairns