My most recent adventures saw me exploring the wonders that Cairns had to offer; from being Australia’s backpacking central to the gateway to The Great Barrier Reef, there is a lot on offer for travellers heading up North.
Situated in Tropical North Queensland, Cairns lays host to multiple world heritage sites and even one of the 7 wonders of the world.
Although my time in Cairns was limited to less than a week, I still managed to complete all that was on my bucket list.
So here’s my guide to the city of Cairns!
Where to stay in Cairns
Depending on what sort of travelling and budget you’re on this one can vary. From budget friendly hostels, to classy resorts Cairns has something for every kind of traveller.
On this occasion I was travelling with my best friend from England and we opted for the more traveller rather than holiday style accomodation and situated ourselves at Nomads Cairns Hostel for the 5 nights we were there (you can read about my review of Nomads here).
Aside from Nomads there are countless other backpacker hostels dotted throughout Cairns, including the infamous Gilligan’s (the benefit of staying here is that you will be situated right in the centre of town, where as Nomads is 10 minutes from the city centre).
No matter what your preferred budget or style is, with a little bit of research it’s not hard to find a suitable place quickly.
Places to eat at
There is so much on offer food wise throughout Cairns, from pub grub to traditional Greek, Italian or Japanese for example, you’re bound to find something perfect for you.
Here’s my must visit places to eat:
↠ The Lillipad Cafe – from my pre-travel research Lillipad’s was always mentioned when it came to places to eat and rated quite highly, so of course I had to go there… and it did not disappoint! The only downside is that it is quite a small cafe and being so well known it can be difficult to get a table (luckily enough for me I found one straight away, but just be aware it isn’t always as easy as walking in and spotting an empty one straight away).
↠ Dundee’s is the perfect location for waterfront dinning, however, can be on the more pricey side especially for seafood.
↠ Salt House – regarded as one of the top restaurants in Cairns, you can’t go past the chance of dinning here. Guests are given the option of bar dinning from a more tapas style menu (which we opted for, the pulled pork burger was amazing!) or sit down fine dinning a la carte (although I didn’t see the menu, I’m told this option is much more pricey).
↠ Fetta’s Greek Taverna – for traditional and authentic Greek food you can’t go past Fetta’s, just the atmosphere and design inside makes you feel like you’ve been swept away to one of the many Greek Islands. We chose to go with the Zorbas Feast set menu and can safely say we almost had to roll ourselves out!
↠ Kan Pai – unintentionally stumbling upon this quaint Japanese restaurant on our last night landed us a delicious and incredibly filling dinner.
↠ Perrottas – although we never had a meal here, we did have an after dinner drink and after a quick glimpse at the food menu, had we had more time we probably would have tried it out.
What to do in Cairns
The list is endless. From gravity defying bungy jumps, to exploring the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, and even admiring the beauty of one of the seven wonders of the world.
In the space of 5 days I managed to squeeze a lot of adventuring in and here’s my list of must do’s if you find yourself in Cairns.
↠ Complete the one and only AJ Hackett bungy situated in Australia. Although being a hell of a lot scarier than the one I did in NZ (read about it here) the view is so worth it. Jumping in the middle of the rainforest, with views over Cairns and to the endless blue sea it should be up there on your bucket list!
↠ Spend the day exploring the village in the rainforest, Kuranda. I would recommend taking the scenic railway to Kuranda (approximately an hour and a half journey) and getting the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway (the views are unbelievable) back down. You can book your tickets and research the tours available here. While up there, take a walk through the rainforest and cool off with a refreshing mango smoothie after!
↠ For a relaxing evening, do a sunset cruise through the marina before grabbing dinner along the esplanade – I booked ours here.
↠ Of course you can’t go to Cairns and not visit the Great Barrier Reef. When it comes to this I highly recommend doing some very in depth research, we booked this tour and although the day turned out fantastic, I was incredibly disappointed to find out I would have to pay extra to try scuba diving when it said a free trial was included; be cautious about what is actually included and what is said to be but comes with a catch!
↠ Explore the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, The Daintree, and explore Cape Tribulation – make sure you stop off at Mossman Gorge for a refreshing swim too! Although there are coach tours for this (we did this one), if like me, you get quite motion/travel sick I would recommend just hiring a car and doing the drive yourself. This way you can spend as little or as much time at certain locations and go at your own pace. If however you opt to do a tour, I would recommend doing a BYO lunch tour. Rather than paying the extra $30 odd to get a basic picnic lunch, you can easily spend less at the supermarket making your own lunch.
↠ Take a stroll through the night markets and pick up some souvenirs of your trip.
↠ Whether you’re staying in a hostel or not, if you’re looking for something social to do why not join a pub crawl. For $25 we did the Monday Mission Pub Crawl and met people from all corners of the world!
Other things to consider doing:
↠ Grab some happy hour cocktails at the Shangri La bar.
↠ Wander through the Botanical Gardens and even do a hike.
↠ Explore the nearby waterfalls such as Crystal Cascades.
↠ Take a dip in the Lagoon along the esplanade.