The Mole Diaries: Cairns, Australia
Emily McLaren is a travel and fitness blogger. After graduation, she backpacked around Australia after graduation, trying out a variety of jobs while she was there including working in a hostel and a call centre, waitressing and even trying her hand at banana farming! This is her insider guide to the beautiful Cairns. For more on Emily's travels, check out her blog.
Cairns – the “gateway to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef” is located in North Queensland. It’s a tropical part of Australia and can receive great weather – in the summer months (December to February), temperatures range from 24oC to 31oC.
In the winter months (June to August), the streets are often busy with tourists trying to escape the slightly cooler climates that they face in the southern regions of Australia. Winter in Cairns sees typical day time temperatures of approximately 18oC.
1. Before You Go
With this in mind, when packing for Cairns – think light and comfortable. A cardigan may be required in the winter evenings but you can safely leave your cosy jacket, scarf and winter boots back in your wardrobe at home.
Before departing, I’d encourage you to get all of the ‘boring’ but essential tasks out of the way like setting up a bank account. A popular choice of bank for visitors to Australia is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This was the bank that I opted for and I can comfortably say that I never ran into any troubles with them.
Other essential preparation for Australia includes having a passport that is valid for six months longer than the intended stay, as well as having the appropriate visa/permit. Not having these could mean not being able to enter the country!
2. Getting There
Along with taxis on offer, there is a handy airport shuttle service which runs as often as every 30 minutes to certain parts of Cairns.
If you haven’t got permanent accommodation pre-arranged before landing in Cairns then fear not – there are plenty of hostels to choose from that will comfortably see you through your first couple of weeks there. The quality of hostels vary from one to another however here are a few that I have stayed in which I would highly recommend:
Gilligans Backpackers Hotel & Resort Cairns
This hostel is centrally located in the heart of Cairns and I can vouch that the dorms are well-maintained (most have en-suite bathrooms). There are a few perks to staying at Gilligans – free airport pickup, 24 hour check-in and a free evening meal every evening when you purchase one drink. There is also a nightclub attached to the hostel – a blessing or a curse depending on which way you look at it!
Nomads Cairns Hostel & Serpent Bar
This hostel is located slightly outside of the centre of Cairns however it is still within walking distance. If walking isn’t your thing then there are free shuttle buses into town every day and throughout the evening. This hostel also offers free airport pickup, free breakfast each morning (tea and toast), as well as housing a bar, restaurant, swimming pool and volleyball court. Note: This Nomads is not be confused with the other Nomads in Cairns (Nomads Esplanade Backpackers). I stayed at that one too and I have to say that I didn’t rate it at all!
Global Backpackers – Central Cairns
This hostel is centrally located in Cairns (only a two minute stroll to the esplanade), it has 24-hour check-in, a fully equipped kitchen and an airport shuttle service (which comes at a small fee). Again, please don’t confuse this hostel with its sister hostel Global Waterfront which let’s just say, has seen better days.
Once you’ve exhausted the hostel experience, you can rent accommodation in various parts of Cairns. You will most likely find yourself having to share accommodation with other people – and if you really want to save on costs then you could even look to share a room with a friend. Accommodation can be quite expensive in Australia so sharing a room can significantly cut the costs. For example, for two people to rent a room in a fully furnished, shared flat, they will be looking at paying in the region of $100 to $150 per person each week – compared with the far higher costs you would have to fork out for if going solo!
Top Things to Do
The lagoon is a large swimming pool located at the esplanade and is available to the public free of charge all year round. On sunny days, this is a great place to wander along to! From time to time, there are also events that take place at the esplanade/lagoon – from bands performing to public art displays.
2. Red Arrow Walk
If you enjoy walking and would quite fancy gazing over the Cairns horizon, this is the spot to do it! At the peak, there are spectacular views of the Coral Sea and Cairns city. If you’re feeling extra energetic then you can even run this route – there are plenty of steps to keep your heart rate up (I warn you now though, from personal experience – it’s pretty heavy going!)
3. Head for the Beaches
There are a few beautiful beaches in Cairns – Trinity Beach, Ellis Beach and Palm Cove have to be my favourites though. Getting to these beaches requires a bit of a drive – well worth it though in my opinion!
4. Fitzroy Island Day Tour
Getting to Fitzroy Island only takes 45 minutes by Fast Cat ride. Coming here for the day is great – the views are stunning and the water is ideal to dip into – it’s the Great Barrier Reef after all.
5. Cape Tribulation
Although this is not in Cairns, Cape Tribulation is still in Queensland and is part of the Daintree National Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. I would wholeheartedly recommend taking a couple of days out of your time in Cairns to visit Cape Tribulation – which is home to some of the oldest rainforest on the planet. And there is a great selection of activities to keep you busy whilst here – jungle surfing is a must!
6. Port Douglas
Another great part of Queensland to visit is Port Douglas which is located approximately 70km/43 miles away from Cairns. If you’re looking for a bit of sophistication in your life then Port Douglas will definitely cater for that! It’s a town filled with flashpackers and to quote the lonely planet, “fiscally flush families”.
7. Millaa Millaa Falls
A stunning waterfall which has become an icon of its region due to it being at the centre of an infamous Herbal Essences advert. No one can pass up participating in a ‘hair flip’ photo when here!
So now that you know just how great Cairns' offerings are (and its surrounding areas), I hope this article will urge you to go. You’re in for a guaranteed great time! With a recipe of all year round warm weather and friendly Aussies – what’s not to like? If you’d like to read some more posts about Australia or further afield, you can check out my blog Borders and Burpees.