You may not know it, but there’s a tropical paradise in North Queensland with a climate similar to that of Bali and a relaxed, fun nature that makes visiting this peculiar city worthwhile. Cairns is the 5th most populous city in Queensland, and 14th overall in Australia because of it’s attractive temperature and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef – a place that snorkelers, divers, and travellers alike strive to see when visiting Australia.
The following is another awesome guest article by Bex West, a Social Media Strategist/Travel Writer currently residing in beautiful Bali. Bex has her own blog at writeatthefork.com. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram.
While staying in Cairns I had the opportunity to bunk with a friend who lives in the Mantra Trilogy, a cool apartment block that looks over the Cairns esplanade and is a 30-second walk away from a huge range of cafe’s, shops and things to do. The building has a number of permanent residents, as well as an array of apartments available for short term rental, aimed at travellers and well worth the cost.
Because Cairns is a popular tourist destination, finding accommodation is relatively straightforward for a range of budgets. Along the Esplanade and in town there are a number of hostels, which for the backpacker, is a perfect place to meet people and find activities to take part in on a budget. For me, the apartment I stayed in was the perfect place to set up, with the main town centre being a 5-minute walk away, and amenities like a washing machine, dryer, full kitchen, and dishwasher, a delightful convenience.
What to do in Cairns
I tried to make the most of my time in Cairns, while still working remotely. The first week I was there, the weather was severely uninviting – raining and quite cold (for Cairns) so I held off on the daytime outdoor activities until the following week when the sun came out and the city reverted back into it’s bustling self again. When the sun’s out, the number of activities to choose from is immense, and deciding on just one per day was a harder decision than I had initially anticipated.
Originally, a new friend and hostel owner had booked both a Hot Air Balloon ride, followed by White Water Rafting in the afternoon which I was excited for until I heard stories of how much “fun” being thrown out of the raft into the raging river was…I opted out of the Rafting and we went for the lone balloon ride, in true “scaredy-cat” style.
Hot Air Balloon
I can’t even begin to explain how odd and incredible it is to be floating in the sky in a basket made of wicker. When we arrived at the designated meeting spot, my friend and I were delighted to find that we were chosen to be in the 2 person balloon while everyone else was escorted to the group basket (sits 15 / 20). We helped set up and disassemble the balloon and basket, and to my surprise, as we landed the pilot flipped the basket onto its side with us still inside it. This was definitely an experience I would recommend – and the view was absolutely breathtaking.
Here are a few tips if you’re pondering this experience:
- You will see the most amazing sunrise you’ve ever seen – so take a camera.
- Go to bed early the previous night – you will be getting up before dawn and you don’t want to be falling asleep up there (I may have had a quick power nap at 3,000 feet…)
- I cannot exclaim this enough – bring a warm jacket! For the most part of this incredible experience, I was shivering, trying to keep myself warm even though I was in jeans and a long sleeved shirt. A jumper is definitely necessary and should not be overlooked.
Compared to many places, Cairns has a pretty active nightlife filled with easy-to-meet people and a whole bunch of travellers looking for a good time. Of the 2 weeks I was there, I went out almost every night, and every outing was a great time. Here are a few places that were frequently on the list:
A relaxed atmosphere with a great house band that play all the usual ‘singalong’ hits. Head over for a chilled drink and a catch up with friends over one of their many $10 dinner deals for a cheap and cheerful evening any night of the week.
At Salt House, I was more inclined to order an Espresso Martini over a beer and felt the need to dress a little bit nicer here than at The Woolshed, although the same upbeat atmosphere resonated through the bar. Things they do well: Espresso Martini, Whiskey Sour, Craft Beer, hot snacks.
One of my favourite things to tell people about is the food at my go-to cafe in Cairns. Lilypad focus all of their energy on the food that they make with love, therefore you may have trouble finding their pages on social media. A quick search through Instagram, though, will provide you with a multitude of images that are sure to make your mouth water! The price is very reasonable, their portions are extremely generous, and the product is always fresh. I suggest the bagel with avo and salmon or the big brekkie (it comes with a steak!) if you feel so inclined. Their salads are enormous (in a good way) and the coffee is to-die-for!
I am aware that this isn’t the only ‘The Source’ store in Australia, however, it was the first time that I’d visited and I loved it so much that I feel others should know. For those unaware, ‘The Source’ is a bulk foods store that provides whole foods, health foods and a huge range of paleo, gluten free, organic & vegan products. The woman who served us gave us testers of vegan chocolates and organic figs and didn’t say a word when I posed with a 20L bucket of coconut oil, just because. They also sell a number of healthy snacks – like veggie chips, great to stock up on before adventuring out on an excursion.
This place is incredible! Not only because the food is unbelievably delicious, but also because there’s unlimited green tea, and they have a small meal (rice, veggies, pork and egg) on the menu for a crisp $5.
My favourite getaway while on holiday in Cairns. Fitzroy Island is only 45-minutes by ferry and absolutely stunning. Visit Nudey Beach (sadly, not literally a nudey beach), take a short walk up to the lighthouse for an awe-inspiring sunset, or a longer hike will get you to the summit where breathtaking views will greet you on arrival. Fitzroy is also home to a Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where staff will take you through the facility and explain what they do, if you’re interested. Additionally, if you’re a snorkeler, diver or ocean lover, you need to visit simply because the island is surrounded by the reef that forms part of the well-known Great Barrier Reef – and Jeez Louise, it’s magnificent.
I was lucky enough to make friends with a few locals and go on adventures with my favourite gypsy who introduced me to her beloved hidden hideaways. These included barefoot tip-toeing through a serene rainforest to an untouched stream for a picnic and a swim, and clambering down a cliff face to a beach below the road where, if you told me I was the first to step foot there, I would have believed you.
Cairns is home to umpteen quiet areas to explore, new things to see and beautiful views to take in – I recommend getting off the beaten track and finding a secret cove of your own!*
*Cairns is also home to a few dangerous animals (this is Australia, after all) so be careful and take care to look for signs for crocodiles and jellyfish!