Newcastle Airport

How to spend 3 days in Cairns by the Fren family

Newcastle Airport launched their inaugural Jetstar flight to Cairns on Wednesday 23rd June and who better to review one of Australia's most beautiful locations than Newcastle's Fren family.

If you're not familiar with the Fren's and their hilarious antics on Channel 9's Travel Guides, you may instead remember them from their much-loved Oma's Restaurant.

Deciding to hang up their aprons following the success of their Travel Guides adventures, Mark, Cathy, Victoria, and Jonathon were invited by Jetstar and Newcastle Airport to spend three sun-soaked days in Cairns as a part of the first flight, and we were keen to get their thoughts on what Queensland's tropical north is really like.

newcastle airport fren family in cairns
L ro R - Jonathon, Mark, Cathy and Victoria Fren

Hi Mark & Cathy, can I start by asking how good is it to be able to fly direct from Newcastle Airport to Cairns?

Mark: It is amazing, in under 3 hours we were in Cairns and coming back it took only 2 hours 11 minutes. I feel like that is the sign of a good holiday when you are not dreading the trip home. We have to say full credit to Newcastle Airport for getting this destination up and running. It was non-stop, you didn’t have to go to Sydney or stop in Brisbane, it really was a stress-free holiday.

Cathy: What appealed to me was that Newcastle Airport is so close to the city and when you arrive in Cairns it’s not far from the airport to your accommodation, so you’re really not spending hours getting from A to B.

Prior to visiting Cairns was it always somewhere you had wanted to visit?

Cathy: We travelled to Cairns in Season 2 of Travel Guides and definitely prior to that I had always wanted to go the Great Barrier Reef.

Mark: One of the things we noticed since we were there 4 years ago was the changes that had taken place. On our last day in Cairns, they were doing a big grand opening of the new Esplanade, and it is so good. They’ve spent a lot of money and it just looks so fantastic, there’s a real buzz up there. If you haven’t been there in a while you wouldn’t recognise the place.

You did a day trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, in terms of natural wonders how does the reef rate, does it actually blow your mind?

Cathy: It does, it’s just one of those things you have to experience at least once in your life. We had our own private snorkeling tour with Sunlover Reef Cruises, and I didn’t have my head out of the water, I was just fascinated the whole time, it really does blow you away.

Was there a highlight of your trip to the reef?

Mark: We spent about 4 hours out on the reef, and there are so many activities to do, there’s a glass-bottom boat, there’s a 30-metre spiraling waterslide, an underwater observatory, you can even just sit and sunbake. Victoria and I did the Seawalker helmet dive which is where you walk along the underwater platform which was amazing.

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You also took the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway up to Kuranda, what was that like as an experience?

Cathy: That was a real eye-opener. The Skyrail takes you over the rainforest and stops along the way so you can chat to the rangers which was a real learning experience. What they explained was how the Skyrail goes over what is the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest, which is quite incredible to think that this is right here in Australia, and only 3 hours from our doorstep.

The Skyrail takes you to Kuranda which had a good feel to it, there are lots of little shops and markets, so we took a walk around and had lunch. It also had a magnificent waterfall nearby which we checked out before coming back on the Skyrail.

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The photos of you taken at the Cairns lagoon looked just beautiful, you looked so relaxed, were you staying near the Esplanade?

Yes, we stayed at the Crystalbrook Flynn and it was beautiful. When you walk out of the hotel you’re right in the middle of the Esplanade, which has so many great bars and restaurants.

Do you have any dining out recommendations in Cairns?

Cathy: What stood out was the atmosphere on the Esplanade and all the beautiful restaurants and being able to sit outside and enjoy the warm weather. Victoria and Jonathon brought their partners with them and they went crazy in all the nightclubs, there are loads of bars.

Mark: We’re too old for all of that, we stayed in and enjoyed the luxury. [laughs]

newcastle airport cairns direct flights

Are you planning another trip anytime soon?

Mark: It’s funny, Victoria and Cath have been looking at airfares already, to see when we can go again, the weather and temperature were perfect. When we went out to the reef we were in the water for about 3 hours just swimming around, without wetsuits, which was a real bonus.

Cathy: There are so many things to do in Cairns, especially the adventure activities. I'd love to do the white water rafting again, and Port Douglas is only an hour's drive north.

One question that is completely unrelated to Cairns, but I have to ask being a local. Will we ever see the Fren family back in a Newcastle restaurant one day?

Cathy: After 10 years Victoria and I have had enough cooking in the kitchen, so we have hung up our tongs, and Mark and I are back teaching at the moment which is what we did for nearly 30 years prior to the restaurant. However, I never say never and a day doesn't go by where I don’t get an email or I don’t run into someone who says 'I just need a pork knuckle or some German food'.

Mark: or even people sending a message asking for a table for Saturday night with four pork knuckles. [laughs]

Cathy: So look maybe one day we’ll do a popup restaurant because we do know we had fabulous food and there are so many people out there still wanting it.

Mark: I am sorry never is never for me [laughs] but I do miss working with the family every day, even though we want to kill each other most of the time [laughs].

Want to get flying? Here's what you need to know. 

Start date: Wednesday 23 June 2021
Frequency: 3 return flights per week