Cairns was our first stop in Australia, we were shocked how green everything was. Cairns is a massive hit with European backpackers and Japanese tourists who flock to see the best of the Great Barrier Reef.
Things To Do In Cairns:
1. The reason most people visit Cairns is to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, tours can be crazy expensive and all show you the same thing. The only difference is the meal they serve onboard and the age of the boat. We paid $99 for an all day trip ran by Compass. We booked through the HappyTours.com office next door to our hotel. The price included snorkel gear, a light breakfast, buffet lunch and wine and cheese in the afternoon.
2. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures was one of my favourite places to visit in Australia, it’s around a 1 hour drive from Cairns so we booked onto a day tour for $86 each which included transport and entrance to the park. Tickets include a boat ride where rangers feed the croc’s chickens from the side of the boat. We booked through Happy Tours again.
3. Night life in Cairns is great, but alcohol is very expensive, especially if you’ve spent the last few months in Asia. There is a Casino close to the main harbour and the night markets are a good place to pick up a cheap meal or wander around after everything else has closed.
4. The central focus point of Cairns is the man made Lagoon on the esplanade, the water around the city and on the beachfront is not safe for swimming due to a threat from crocodiles, so the council built a beautiful lagoon which is safe for everyone to enjoy.
5. The esplanade itself is a very scenic walk, especially when the tide is in, it’s popular with joggers on an evening and there are a handful of free outdoor gyms scattered along the main walkway. There are also lots of free water fountains along the way to fill up your bottles.
6. The botanical gardens are about a 40 minute walk outside the centre of Cairns, there free to enter and are huge, there are a few different sections, one of which is the tropical rainforest walk (make sure you have insect repellent).
7. Kuranda is a beautiful village in the mountains with a cute market and a 45 minute walk to the beautiful Barron Falls. Tour operators offer packages that include cable car rides and vintage train journeys to the village but if your on a tight budget the return bus journey only costs $13.40/pp. Click HERE for the latest bus schedule.
Where To Eat:
Asian – The night markets have a good selection of affordable places to eat. Meals are approx $10, or go large for $13 and share one.
Snacks – 3.14 Pie is a great little bakery in the centre of town.
How Long To Stay:
There really is a lot to keep you busy in Cairns, we spent longer here than anywhere else in Australia. 5 days was the perfect amount of time to see and do everything.
Cairns airport is only 10 minutes from the city centre, Sun Palm tours offer a shuttle bus for only $11. There’s no need to book online, just show up at the counter in the arrivals area.
Where To Stay:
We stayed at the Hides Hotel right in the centre of town, the location was perfect and the rooms were good for the price. We used some of our vouchers and only paid £33 per night through Hotels.com, full price would have been £52. The price includes a buffet breakfast.