My girlfriend and I will be heading up to Cairns to do a 3day/2 night live aboard on the reef. After that how long should we stay in Cairns for? We would like to possibly check out the Daintree rainforest. Should we rent a car to get there, or are tours reasonabely priced? Also, should we head to port douglas after diving?
Then we will have a layover in Darwin on our way to Bali. How long should we stay here for? What are some things we could do here. We are on a tight budget, don't party much, and like to hang out on the beach and enjoy nature. We would like to possibly go to the kakadu and lichfield national parks. Again, should we rent a car, or is there a better option. Thanks for any help.
If you don't like to party you probably won't want to spend much time in cairns. I"d suggest renting a car and going north, its really beautiful. Port douglas was nice, but incredibly expensive. I was there working, but unless you like 5 star hotels you probably won't enjoy it. There are some really nice beaches between Cairns and Port Douglas, and some nice rainforest walks .You'll find several travel agents/tour companies on everyblock in cairns, so just ask around when you get there to get a good idea of what you want to do.
When in Darwin defenatly go to the markets, buy cheap food and sit on the beach and listen to the music while the sun sets over the ocean.Rent a car and tent to go to Kakadu, its free and you can take your time and enjoy yourself.In my opinion a tour would be a waste of money. Be warned the mosquitos are evil when the sun goes down, so bring long sleved shirts, pants and a lot of misquito repellent. You could also make a trip down to Kathrine and go swimming in the gorge, really refreshing after you get attacked by misquitos, and a few side trips on the way. We did this trip in 5 days, but you could spend longer. I havn't been to Litchfield, but I believe you need a 4WD, I could be wrong.
Port Douglas is a good base for about 3 or 4 days to enjoy one of the many beaches both south of Port Douglas as in the Daintree National Park which is good for a daytrip. Also, Mosman Gorge is nice and after a one hour walk you will enjoy cooling off in the waters: no beach but it is good fun. Cape Tribulation beach is just beautiful really and you would want to spend about half a day, just soking up the sun and enjoy the surroundings. Actually, most people just have a brief visit and therefore the beach is almost empty, you can have a good part of the beach for yourself.
I didn't find Port Douglas expensive as it has a wide range of both accommodation and food. There are a few 5 star hotels on the road into PD but in the town itself there are backpacker options and a few good cheaper hotels with swimming pool. I would recommend Hybiscus Gardens, balinese style small hotel with pool, but it is not really tight budget.
Also a daytrip by car to the Atherton Tablelands is nice, but avoid that cable ride trainride, just go late in the afternoon and you have the place to yourself.
Darwin is carp I think, but that is personal. Litchfield on the other hand is beautiful and is a really good place to enjoy some fresh water without the crocs at this time of year and has some nice waterfalls. 4WD is not needed, as most of the highlights are reached by tarred road.
Can't add much to what the others have already said, but if you do decide to do something like scarlette said with swimming in the gorges, be sure to look out very closely for any signs mentioning crocodiles. Some water holes/gorges are safe for swimming in the Northern Territory, but a lot aren't due to being inhabited by crocodiles (those ones will have crocodile warning signs up somewhere) so watch out for the signs otherwise if you take a swim you might be the meal for a crocodile.
Lichfield and Kakadu national parks are stunning and both well worth a visit. I did a 2 day tour to Kakadu and a day tour to Lichfield, but as there are 2 of you you might prefer to hire a 4WD for Kakadu at least, or hook up with a couple of other travellers and share the costs. hostel noticeboards are a good place to look for adverts for this kind of thing. The tours are pretty good value though. there isn't much to see in darwin itself but don't miss the Mindil Beach sunset which is beautiful.