Cairns is a very vibrant city stacked with heaps of booming bars and restaurants. Being pinpointed right on the edge of tropical Queensland’s coastline, Cairns is a very popular tourist destination for snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing. Whether you are a stingy backpacker who is looking to party, a person looking for a relaxing week away or a crazy, carefree individual seeking adventure, the city has something for you. As I am a combination of all the above, Cairns was the place for me!
To anyone who is intending on visiting Cairns, I would advise you to hire a car and travel around! Cairns itself is great, but there is so much to see in the area and it’s worth the extra money on a car rental.
WHERE TO GO
Port Douglas is a quieter and more relaxed town than Cairns is. With a long stretch of calm blue water and white sand, Port Douglas’ beaches are a nice spot to relax and enjoy the sun. Make sure to swim in-between the nets to be safe from stingers and crocs. The town has a few pubs and bars and little boutiques but is a little more expensive than Cairns so I would save any shopping you want to do for there. Though I do suggest going to the morning Sunday markets if you’re up there on a weekend, it’s worth a look. I liked Port Douglas for its chilled vibe but there isn’t a lot to do there so a week stay is long enough.
The Mossman Gorge national park is located about 30 minutes north of Port Douglas in the southern part of the Daintree National Park. The park has a very accessible boardwalk that runs right through the lush rainforests surrounding the crystal clear waters of the Mossman River Gorge. I was lucky enough to visit this beauty when it was still quite warm, so going for a swim in the refreshing river mouth was definitely on the cards.
COST- FREE (pay for a shuttle from the Centre – ADULT $9.10)
This place was out of this world! José Paronella had a dream to build a castle and he chose this special part of Australia to build it in. Not only is there a spectacular castle on the 5 hectares of land, but also a picnic area overlooking the Mena Creek Falls, tennis courts, bridges and a tunnel that is all surrounded by stunning lush rainforest. I got an exotic feeling when walking around Paronella Park, like magic existed. This very spiritual place is definitely worth the visit.
COST- ADULT $44 (valid for 24months)
Josephine Falls is located 75km from Cairns in this small town called Mirriwinni. From the car park, we had to walk about 700 metres through the rainforest to get the swimming hole. It was beautiful, refreshing crystal clear water and lots of shady spots to lay out a towel to relax. As this is one of the very well known waterfalls in North Queensland, expect there to crowds of people. We arrived there around 10am and there was already about 20 people there. As we were leaving two coaches full of tourists just arrived making it a huge mosh-pit of people! So unless you like crowds, come early!
Hartley’s Crocodile Farm
Located only 40 minutes from Cairns, Hartley’s Crocodile Farm is one of the best places to see crocodiles and wildlife in the area. It is a great activity for the whole family. We really enjoyed all the educating shows especially the croc feeding and snake handling. Make sure you take the boat cruise down the lagoon to see all the crocodiles up nice and close.
COST- ADULT $37
The Sky Rail cableway takes you on a spectacular 7.5 kilometre gondola ride over the tropical rainforest. It is a great activity for all ages and rated one of the top things to do in Cairns. As you glide only metres over the rainforest canopy you can relax and enjoy the views from your 6 person gondola cabin. We upgraded to a glass-bottom cabin which was soon regretted as we always had to wait at least 5-10 minutes for one to show up. The views from the normal cabins are just fine.
COST- ADULT RETURN $75 (tip: book online in advance for 5% off)
Babinda Boulders is located about an hour’s drive south of Cairns and was probably my most favourite place I visited. It is located about an hour’s drive south of Cairns. The main swimming area is situated right next to car park and BBQ area so it is easy accessible by everyone. This swimming hole was beautiful; crystal clear waters surrounded by rich rainforest. I had the privilege of having this whole swimming area to myself at one point, which made it so much more magical. If you follow along the boardwalk that follows the creek downstream, you will reach the look out of Devil’s Pool. This was magnificent! In amongst the beautiful lushes trees was a display of huge boulders that lined the flowing turquoise waters.
There is an old Aboriginal legend about the Babinda Boulders that I found rather interesting. A young girl Oolana who was chosen to marry a well-respected elder falls in love with a handsome young man Dyga from another tribe. The two lovers run away together but are soon captured by members of their respective tribes. As Dyga is dragged away, Oolana breaks free of her captors and throws herself into the waters, knowing she will never love again. Since this legend, 17 men have lost their lives in the cavernous waters of Devil’s Pool. Strange coincidence don’t you think?
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN CAIRNS CITY
EATING AND DRINKING
Rattle and Hum – great food and atmosphere!
The Salt House – Didn’t eat here, but great place to have afternoon drinks on the Pier
Reef Casino – Had some good live music playing
Four Cinq – Amazing Japanese for cheap price (get the Chicken Ramen)
DFO – good bargains, huge cheap surf shop outlet Sideways
Cairns Central Shopping Centre – good range of shops