Cairns is a beautiful, warm beach side town. It is located in Northern Queensland meaning it is warm year round, with beautiful beaches, and rain-forests surrounding it.
Central Cairns is a hotspot for tourists, especially backpackers and families. There are several areas in Cairns to stay, Cairns, North Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove, the later being on the more luxury and expensive side.
Cairns itself if a hub of activity with restaurants and many boats headed out to the reef. Port Douglas and Palm Cove in comparison are much nicer spots to lay by the beach and enjoy a happy hour.
So what is there to do in Cairns?
The Great Barrier Reef: The Reef is a popular spot for tourists and the main attraction, with plenty of boats taking visitors out onto the reef every day it is hard to work out which tour company to go with.
I did an incredible day with Seastar cruises out on the reef. They take small groups of up to 36 out onto the reef each day with the focus being on small group tours to the outer reef. The tour itself began at 8am with us heading to two outer reef spots over the day. I did two scuba dives (one at each location) which were in groups of 3 people and incredible. There is nothing to describe the underwater world under than majestic. It is quiet, beautiful, and so colourful! The anenomies, coral and fish under the water are incredible, it is a beautiful world. I managed to find Nemo, turtles and everything in between. I also got a chance to snorkel at both locations and go on the glass-bottom boat that is at the second reef location. It was a great tour which I highly recommend.
Red, Blue and Green Arrow Hike: Depending on how much time you have, getting in one of these hikes is a must do when in Cairns. The Red Hike is a shorter hike taking only an hour but providing great views of the city. If you continue further up the path along the Blue Arrow Hike you will head into the bush properly, off the paved path. It is nice and quiet, with dense foliage and plenty of birds to keep you company. The Blue Arrow hike is longer and more strenuous and will take you 3-4 hours depending on your pace, but it does provide incredible views of Cairns from the top of the mountain. The hikes all start at the Botanical Gardens in Cairns easily reached by bus or car. It is worth having a wonder through the Botanical Gardens and Rain-forest garden once you are done.
The Esplanade Pool: The beach in central Cairns is not the greatest, but the pool located on the esplanade is. It is often busy in summer but a great spot to lie by the water or go for a swim. There are also lifesavers on duty during the day.
White Water Rafting– Raging Thunder Adventures provide fun white water rafting tours with transfers as well. There are two options a half-day tour to Baron River or a full day tour to Tully river. I would suggest the full day option if you are going to go White Water Rafting as the Baron River option is quite relaxed in regards to the grade of difficulty. If thrills are your thing this is a great day trip from Cairns!
Port Douglas and Palm Cove: Head up to Port Douglas or Palm Cove to enjoy a happy hour and laze by some beautiful beaches.
EATING! So where to eat? There are plenty of options to choose from in Cairns from Fancy Waterfront restaurants, to cheap burger joints full of backpackers here are a few of my favourite places to eat.
Mama Coco: This is a great spot to head for a weekend lunch or brunch, it is often busy and the minute you get your food you understand why. The food is fresh, local and healthy. I got the Grilled Haloumi, lentil and freekah salad, a friend had recommended it and it didn’t disappoint. If you are there at breakfast the coconut waffle is the way to go.
Prawn Star: The Prawn Star is the place to get local seafood if you are craving some, the moreton bay bugs and of course the prawns are the go-to dishes on this small boat located on the marina at dock E. The Prawn Star is a small boat, that allows diners the chance to enjoy fresh seafood cooked on board and enjoyed on the water. They are open early until 8pm and don’t take bookings.
Salt House: Located on the water this restaurant has a beautiful location, view and even better food. The $20 lunch special here is the best deal you will get in town. It includes a main with a wine/ beer, and has choices such as local fish and burgers. They do plenty of great cocktails and a good dinner, but of course it is on the pricier side.
Jaffle House: This is a great spot to hit up for a quick lunch or breakfast sandwich. Nice and cheap, and the best jaffle you will get in Cairns.
Caffiend: If you are after a good coffee in Cairns this is the place to go. They also do a great breakfast and lunch, similar to what you could get in Melbourne. Their avocado and eggs on toast always goes down a treat.
Apex Milk Bar: Burgers galore, they do a great hearty burger at a good price. Full of locals and backpackers, these are the highlight of the burgers in Cairns.
Lilypad Cafe: A great cheap, hearty breakfast with plenty of vegetarian options. Lilypad cafe is in the heart of the city and always busy with locals and backpackers after a good, affordable lunch or breakfast. Give their pancakes, or big breakfast a try.
Tha Fish: If you are looking for a special night out, and have a few dollars to space Tha Fish is the place to go. They offed an incredible Seafood platter if you are ready to go the hard yards, if not their Fish menu offering 5 different types of fish, cooked 5 ways is a great way to go. I got the barramundi with a panko breadcrumb with wedges, potentially the best piece of fish I have ever had. The $40 price tag was a bit steep however, but you pay for the location and service.
Have fun, and let me know if there is any places you recommend I hit up next time I go, because I will definitely be back!