What’s in Cairns Australia?
Cairns is pronounced ‘cans’. The city has lots of destinations to offer tourists by plane, boat or car and besides the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is filled with wild life and surrounded by rain forest and beaches.
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Where we stayed:
Reef Backpackers Hostel in a private room. As there was two of us, getting two beds or sharing a room wasn’t much of a difference in price for the time we were there. Reef Backpackers Hostel has merged with the neighboring hosteling, which gives you the option of hanging out in two different pools and gaining more friends to hang around with. There is a long list of employees who were happy to show us to our comfortable bed. It is on the low end of the price point and it shows it; the place is quite run down with water dripping from the ceiling and taps and showers that don’t work properly, but we soon learned that this is quite common in Australia. So many people want to live in Australia so the landlords and owners do not care if the hotel, apartment, hostel or home is a little run down because someone will buy it. Reef backpackers was perfect for us as we spent most of our time with day trips and the ambiance of the place is held up very well with the people that hang out at Reef Backpackers (be aware drugs are common at this hostel).
When we went:
We went in February which is just at the tail end of the hottest months in Australia; December, January, February. We basically started in Sydney and worked our way north towards the equator to make sure we stayed warm as the fall starts to cool off southern Australia.
What we did:
Cairns Lagoon though the ocean in and around Cairns is not the best for swimming, Cairns has an amazing infinity lagoon. With lifeguards, live music, beaches, a street market and, of course, water; it is a perfect afternoon hang out! The lagoon has varied depths for everyone to stay cool and a water fountain if you feel like being rained on while in the water. Between the sky, the ocean and the lagoon, you’ll be feeling the good kind of blue!
Cairns streets and boardwalk, now I know this is a slightly unusual thing to say, but the streets are covered with bats which hang out in the trees during the day and just before sunset take to the skies to catch all the little biggies that fly around. The Cairns boardwalk is also an interesting feat of beauty, the early hours of the morning is the high tide, but you can watch it roll into the late the morning which reveals the crabs. Thousands and thousands of crabs revealed! It is so fascinating and beautiful. Certainly check out the sunrise to watch the bats settle in the trees and the crabs be revealed on the beaches.
Cairns Botanic Gardens is a great day trip to do for free. It has five gardens, two lakes, a rainforest boardwalk, bamboo collection and the Watkins Munro Martin Conservatory! The gardens are filled with stunning flowers, foliage and various birds; we even saw a very rare humming bird! To check out free tours and walks, see what’s on or to see the functions, click here. We took our sweet time wondering though as much of the garden as possible. In four hours we saw almost all of it, but it started to rain so we headed home. We took the bus, but you can also drive.
The Crystal Cascades in a little cascading waterfall nestled in the mountains surrounding Cairns. It is an easy paved hike to the top where you can relax and take a dip to cool off. This hike is the first time we were able to get close enough to a Kookaburra to see what it actually looked like! The Kookaburra wasn’t the only amazing thing we saw though, from big to small Australia amazes me with it’s colours and sounds and what topped my list of cool things that I saw was actually a dragonfly that looked as though its wings were feathers! (Pictured below)
Barron River Gorge is a mountainous valley with a river running through it lined by rainforest foliage and it absolutely stunning just before sunset! We drove up Barron Gorge Rd which winds along the cliff sides and through the mountains to the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station. Just before the station you reach a bridge (which local traffic can not drive over), but there is parking spaces. We parked the car and walked across a bridge to get some amazing birds eye view photographs of the rushing water below. It is, however, only accessible by car (or a really really long hike without any camping grounds).
Shopping in Cairns
Cairns Night Market located at 73-75 Esplanade in Cairns is a covered market with everything Australian you could ever want! From boomerangs to didgeridoos to jewelry, food and even massages, it’s all here and at reasonable prices. Though, I can’t attest to the quality of the items as the ring I purchased has since worn away its colour and tarnished, you can find most of what you may be looking for at this market.
Regency Jewellers has several locations in Cairns. Cairns is a popular docking station for many cruise ships and it is evident in the fact that Cairns is covered in jewelers! Opal is my birthstone and I thought this would be the perfect place to purchase an authentic Australian Opal. After visiting a few stores and thinking that Australian Opals were out of my price range, I got talking with a friendly staff member at Regency, she pulled out some less expensive opals for me to look at. She explained the difference between the different kinds of opals and why some were less expensive than others, this helped me to make an informed decision about what kind of opal I wanted to purchase. Be aware that some of the cheaper opals (called doublets or triplet opals) are layered and glued together, this means that the opals should not go in water as essentially the glue will wear and your item may fall apart.
Cairns Central Mall stuffed with stores including SportsGirl, Platypus, Pandora and Witchery as well as superstores like K-Mart, Target and Cole’s. It is a mega hub when it feels like it is too hot to be outside or when it is raining to it’s hearts desire, but either way this mall keeps busy at all hours!
Where we ate:
We cooked most of our meals at the hostel! We visited the local groceries stores such as Woolworth’s and Cole’s to pick up our daily meals and packed to go boxes for our hikes and day trips.
One place I did visit a couple times is the best gelato outside of the night market! Omg, do they ever have the most amazing flavours! BUT, they regularly change their flavours, so grab the unique flavours while you can because they could be gone the next day!
Much of Cairns is spread out and difficult to get to places via public transit. While in town, we walked most places, we were able to take the bus to Palm Cove and to the Botanic Gardens, but for most other things such as access to hiking areas or day trips, you will need a car to get you where you want to go! We used Sixt Car Rentals, they were the best price and I have had previous experience with them, so I was happy to take them again.
The Full Story:
As you can see above, our trip to Cairns was very productive! From hiking to beaches to the Great Barrier Reef to mall crawling, we sure packed our days full of things to do. On our more relaxed days, we hung out by the pool and enjoyed some Australia wine while watching the sun go down and the bats flying around. Australia in general is beautiful and there is always more to see and do, if you are driving up the coast or flying up the coast (like we did), you know what I mean! It seems like everywhere in Australia could be a new home, a new place to settle. Eventually you believe the next place will be even more amazing and you drag yourself to the next place tired from the last place, but you always get a new breath of fresh adventure and you are reinvigorated with energy!