Cairns is one of the bigger cities in Queensland and is bustling with life and youth. Being a backpacker hotspot, the city is alive constantly with sunbathers hanging around the water front, crowding the many hostels in the CBD and with party people at night. There are many places for foodies to delight in, many souvenir shops and beautiful nature all around. Its city centre is not very big and has everything you need in one neat little place. To get to the Botanic Gardens, however, a bus is needed.
Cairns is a backpacker hotspot, which makes it no surprising that the ultimate party hostel complex, Gilligans, is situated right in its middle packed with events, competitions and vouchers for every day. Even if you are not staying here, you can visit the parties. Not only do hostels cater to party goers’ needs, but bars and restaurants, such as Woolshed and P.J. O’Brien’s are not behind with food specials and nightly events.
Cairns has it all, accommodation-wise. You can stay at a resort, hotels, rented holiday apartments and hostels just as well. Some of them have pools and free breakfast, others have food vouchers upon arrival. For Hostels I can recommend NJoy, which has prices that are unbeatable between 15 and 24 AUD for a night’s stay with extra wifi access between 2 and 5 AUD. If are looking foryou hotels, you can find the big ones conveniently situated at the beach front, such as Hilton, Accor and Pullmann, including the casino.
Going out in Cairns is pricy if you don’t have a voucher, but there is a wide range to choose from. Indian, German and Korean are next to one another as are Greek and Italian restaurants in the CBD. For fast Asian cuisine and Spanish chorizo, the Night Market is the place to be. Ice lovers must visit the Esplanade for frozen yoghurt, Korean shaved cream and Italian ice on a stick. For a quick fix of veggies and fruits, stop by Rusty’s market from Friday to Sunday to get the best deals in town. Here’s a little secret just for you: if you come by at 4pm sharp on Sunday, you can get most things for only 1 AUD per kilo!
Cairns Central has all the shops for your fashion fix, but if you are looking for unique and retro, discover private ships in the Arcades. Ever fancied a drover hat or even an Indiana Jones one (Over here! Me! Me!)? Make sure you put the Night Market on your list. It runs every day from 5pm to 9pm and satisfies your souvenir, massage and fashion accessory wishes, among other things. It can get really busy and hosts up to 150 stores, so calculate in some time for this.
For family friendly and crocodile free swimming, the lagoon is your best bet. It is an artificial swimming pool overlooking the ocean and being lighted come dusk for your nightly swim pleasures. During the day, life guards are patrolling and making sure, the kids are safe.
A fun and free program is provided by Cairns city along the Lagoon. Each day there are different sport activities to partake in, such as Aqua Zumba on Wednesdays. I can tell you they are fun and how great is working out with the best view of the blue sea, faraway mountains and beneath green palm trees.
If you want to see waterfalls, rainforest and wild animals there are many options at your hands. A day trip through the Atherton Tablelands is a great day out with lots of swims and stunning scenery. You might even see a cassowary, an emu like flightless bird with a cask on its head. You can self drive or book a tour through, for instance Barefoot Tours and Uncle Brian’s.
Another go to place is Kuranda Village with the Forestation Reserve. The market provides handcrafted goods, jewellery and lots of other unique finds and the reserve hosts a butterfly house, aboriginal shows and animal zoo, where you can hold a koala or small crocodile. Getting to this village, you need to drive or take the bus and then jump on the train or gondola for an extra special view of the tropical forest. Other popular destinations are snorkeling trips as well as tours up Daintree and Cape Tribulation.
Cairns is nice to its visitors and provides free wifi around the lagoon. It is limited to 1 hour but can be reentered a couple of times until the day limit is exhausted. If you need another hour, head over to the library. It doesn’t provide any sockets, but the wifi is free for an hour and up to 100MB.
Here, Cairns is not so nice to its visitors. There is only one taxi company and it charges 45 AUD for the 10 minute drive to the airport. So make sure you get a flight during normal day times in order to catch a shuttle bus, such as FNQ. This company also cooperates with many hotels and hostels and will pick you up and drop you off right in front of the door – sometimes even for free, depending on the target accommodation.
If you want a coast town that is less expensive and hot than Darwin, just as alive and is a great starting point for your day trips to amazingly beautiful Queensland flora and fauna, then Cairns is a must. It is quite possible to get around Cairns in a day, so do not plan in too much time if you get sick of parties, swims and shops easily.