In Northern Queensland, past the miles and miles of sugarcane fields, sits the tropical city of Cairns. Famous for its party atmosphere it is a big attraction for backpackers, but there is more to it then gaining a hangover. The close surrounding areas are rich in rainforest and aboriginal culture. The center is bustling with activity from markets, music, bars and restaurants. The city is brimmed full of colorful life and it is easy to see why people love this city.
Starting life when it was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770, it took another 100 years for European settlers to be coerced into moving so far north into the tropics, then after began its life as we see today as a tent city. Now the city has flourished in bounds, with a population of approximately 150,000 people not counting the hundreds of tourists and backpackers who love this city, and after a couple of natural tragedies in the 20th Century, this city has gone from strength to strength.
Where To Stay
The best place to stay is Dreamtime Hostel on the corner of Terminus Street.
This award-winning hostel is beautifully laid out. It is small, but there is a big mix of people there from young backpackers to families. The hippy atmosphere makes this place comfortable and friendly, it has everything you need, from cheap Internet to free food in the kitchen, a place to do your washing, clean swimming pool and the beds are incredibly comfortable. It is extremely clean and not too expensive, it cost $40 for a double room per night. Its location is behind a huge shopping center, close to all the amenities you will need but not too close to the city center making it a very quiet spot. Sometimes you can get special rates for rooms, if you catch one of the promotion guys waiting at the bus station. On your first night there you will also receive a meal voucher for a free meal at the Woolshed in the city center. The food is not amazing, but it is still a hot plate of food at the end of a very long day.
If you want to party, try Gilligan’s Backpackers Hotel & Resort, between Sheridan and Grafton Streets.
This place is a hostel on a grand scale; it is the biggest hostel in Cairns. The huge bar and club is as sophisticated as any mega club around the world. There are regular themed nights, and the drinks are cheap. People who have stayed there say the rooms are nice, everything is clean, but don’t expect too much sleep as its liveliness brings with it constant noise.
Where NOT to stay, Koala hostel on Lake Street.
This place is the epitome of basic, it is laid out like a prison. The dorm rooms connect to other dorm rooms with no doors dividing them up. Everything is grey and the beds are metal bunk beds, it is depressing to stay there for anything more than one night and to drop your things off. The people working there are very friendly and accommodating, but it isn’t worth your limited money when it isn’t the cheapest of all the hostels. There are no other facilities other than the Internet.
Where To Eat
Cairns is absolutely full of places to eat and drink, you will never be in a position of not being able to find anywhere to sit and eat something hot after your travels.
Best place for Breakfast……
Kani’s on the Esplanade road does the best big breakfasts. Ask for the ‘special breakfast’ for $7.95 and you will get a breakfast that will make you feel as if you could take on the world. The staffs are friendly and very good at their jobs, definitely worth a giving them a tip. Or try Cairns Corner Café on Sheridan Street. Ask for a huge bacon baguette for $6.50 that will fill you up.
Best place for lunch….
As with eating at night, you will never be stuck to find a place to eat in Cairns, but one of the best things you could do is find Rusty’s market on Spence Street, where you can buy fresh and sometimes completely unique fruit and vegetables very cheaply from around Australia and Asia. Rusty’s market is open on Friday 6 am-6 pm, Saturday 6 am- 3 pm and Sunday 6 am-2 pm.
Best place to eat at night….
Depending on what food you would like there are a huge variety of restaurants by the mariner, opposite Esplanade road.
If you would like something a little less informal and slightly more exciting then head to the Night Markets on Esplanade Road, here you will be spoiled for choice of Asian food, you pay for a plate at any of the outlets and fill it up yourself, joining the rest of the diners on the food court. This place is full to the brim of noise and people. Adjoining the food courts are a small market where you can buy trinkets and souvenirs.
Discovering the Rest of Cairns
One must to do whilst in Cairns is to hire a car and drive up the coast to Port Douglas. Along the way, take the chance to drive to Kuranda, one of the most beautiful places on my travels through the East Coast of Queensland. Drive up the winding roads through stunning rainforest to this old town. Until 1888 Kuranda was an Aboriginal town to the Djabugay people, until Thomas Behan colonised the ‘village in the forest’ and built a railway, leading the way to becoming an important tool for trade. The atmosphere here is so placid and welcoming, it is such a small town, but it is no wonder why people still want to live here away from the hustle and bustle of Cairns. This place is a must see if you plan on going to Cairns. It now has a bustling tourism industry, people come from all over the world to see this wonderful place that it situated so high up in the Queensland rainforest.
When in Kuranda you should take the chance to drive a few kilometers out of Kuranda towards Barron Falls National Park. This park is dedicated to conserving the beautiful waterfall of Barron Falls. It is easy to get to, as its sign posted all the way from Kuranda and from Cairns. Leave your car at the bottom and follow the bridge path as it winds through Rainforest until you reach the look out points at different heights. The view is something to behold, especially if you have never seen a waterfall before.
Along the north eastern coast are some of Queensland’s most beautiful beaches. The entire journey once you hit Trinity Beach on the Captain Cook Highway is all beaches looking out into the Great Barrier Reef. The drive only takes an hour out of Cairns to Port Douglas, but it is a drive worthy of postcards as you pass Ellis Beach to Four Mile Beach. Port Douglas is a wealthy town and regularly frequented by backpackers, as there is plenty of work there and easy to get to from Cape Tribulation.
Just out of Port Douglas lies the stunning Mossman Gorge, part of the Daintree National Park. This is one of the rivers which people can swim in this area, it is a freshwater river but has no crocodiles; as a result it is one of the very few that you can swim and climb all over the rocks. This brings a lot of people to the area, so you shouldn’t go there expecting a secluded place to swim and relax.
Article by: Jemilla Russell-Clough