by Courtney Marie
Drinking cocktails as the sun goes down, watching tropical fish swim by and meeting a variety of travelers are just a few of the enjoyments Cairns has to offers. Located in North East Australia, this place caters to many international travelers. The main reason? It’s home to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. But the stunning reefs are not all this tropical city has to offer; it’s also filled with wonderful wildlife and heaps of outdoor adventures.
Assessable by plane or a long drive north, once you get here don’t waste any time booking your reef tour. You will have the option of many tour companies but the prices are around the same, give or take $5-$10. You can go on small boats, larger boats, small dive boats, sail boats and almost anything imaginable (once out there some companies offer you a ride back to Cairns via helicopter, of course it’s not free but options there and if you have the extra cash then the views are nothing short of spectacular). The tours offer snorkeling or scuba diving. Snorkeling is obviously cheaper running around $120 where diving will depend on your experience and how many dives you want. If you are on a budget, keep to snorkeling, you will still get to see everything the divers see and you can swim under and hold your breath if you want a closer view. If your diving, pay a bit extra to get in more dives and this will help make the experience last longer and hence worth the cost. If you have lots of time and can be flexible, sign up on the cancellation list and you’re looking at nearly a $100 savings. You’ll be able to see many kinds of tropical fish, turtles, sting rays and of course the stunning underworld of reef life.
The actual city of Cairns is small but has a great cosmopolitan feel, due to the constant flow of travelers passing through. If you’re a backpacker and looking to enjoy the social atmosphere then defiantly stay in Cairns. There’s lots of hostels to choose from and prices range from $13- $28. I’ll recommend Global Gossip. The rooms are clean, it starts at $13 and every night they give you a $5 meal voucher with a complimentary drink. The meal is great value, not only for $5. If you are coming as a couple or with your family and looking to dodge the backpackers, maybe think about staying in Palm Cove. Palm Cove is 26 km away from Cairns and offers the same amenities, only quieter. You can still book your reef trip from here and an airport transfer is just as easy.
Eating in Cairns will suite anyone since the restaurants target different travelers and locals. You will find Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and Aussie food, along with pub food and lots of fish and chips. Overall, the eating isn’t too expensive and usually a
number of restaurants will offer happy hour. Going out in Cairns is laid back but still a party. There are pubs and bars that offer footy games that later switch to music. Backpackers tend to mingle wherever the drink specials are while lower key bars offer live bands and pool.
Being a very popular tourist destination, it comes with all the popular adventure activities. They include sky diving, hang gliding, ballooning, white water rafting and sailing. If you’ve got the guts, Cairns will be a stunning backdrop to your wild adventures.
The best advice while visiting Cairns is to rent a car. You can drive in almost any direction and end up in a rainforest. Simply follow the signs and head to; Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River, Cape Tribulation, and Atherton Tablelands, to name a few. You can also drive to Mareeba, the beginning of the outback. With sunshine three hundred days a year its home to Australia’s biggest coffee crops. A further drive south will lead you to Mission beach, home to the endangered bird Cassowary. And of course, a popular drive north you’ll end up in Port Douglas, the famous resort town.
With so much to see you might need a lazy day; simply a break from sightseeing. When this happens, you can sun bake at the Lagoon, Cairns homemade swimming spot. Popular because half the year you cannot swim directly off the beach due to sting rays, it has a tropical feel and great for “people watching.” If you do find you need a break from the sun, go for a walk. There are tons of walking tracks in and around Cairns. Later you can also go to the night markets; they run every night and offer souvenirs in every category.
If you want to experience something different, defiantly drive to Atherton and visit the Tolga Bat Hospital. Working to restore bats and their natural habitats, you’ll be able to meet and greet the wide range of Aussie bats while being educated about the dangers that face them. Located one hour inland from Cairns it’s an eye opener into the world of bats. The owner of twenty years, Jenny, runs and operates the hospital biased out of her home with only a few volunteers at a time. As a non for profit organization nothing is wasted and the bats always come first. For a small fee of $12 Jenny will introduce you to her favorite bats, show you the damage bard wire fences have and best of all, you’ll get to feed the baby bats. It’s best to call and make an appointment ahead of time as they are always busy and sometimes they’re out rescuing the bats. Bring your camera as this is a souvenir you’re going to want to document.
Cairns is an excellent travel destination, and not only will you leave with new and adventurous experiences but you will meet many travelers of many styles. Best of all, the locals who live here love Cairns just as much as the people passing through, making it a happy place to be.