Cairns is the gateway to the barrier Reef and for that reason is very popular. Though it offers much more than just that.
Cairns boasts a rich aboriginal history and it’s a great place to learn about these practises. It is also an adventure hotspot, with lots of adrenaline fuelled activities to keep you entertained.
Cairns has both an international and domestic airport so is easily accessible by air.
It also has great bus links to the rest of the country and I used greyhound to access the northern city from Townsville.
Travellers oasis is a very highly rated hostel in cairns and I can see why. It had a real family feel, the rooms have actual beds (instead of bunk beds) and a pool to cool down in.
Each week there is a BBQ which features some didgeridoo playing and adventurous meat tasting. Think along the lines of kangaroo, crocodile and emu.
The travel desk were also really great, they helped me to arrange various activities whilst in Cairns.
Only annoying which was the aircon was not free (though still cheap) and I had to wait for a shower a couple of times.
There is so much to do in cairns and with only 4 nights it was hard to decide where to spend my time.
Hartleys crocodile farm
On my first day I booked a last-minute tour to Hartleys crocodile farm for $80 including transfers. I booked it 20 minutes before it departed so didn’t really have much time to read up about it.
I hadn’t really considered the fact that farm meant they farmed the crocs for meat and leather. If I had perhaps I wouldn’t have gone.
Though saying that I learnt a lot about how although farming in my opinion is not appropriate, especially for leather and high-end fashion. It actually takes the value out of illegal poaching and reduces wastage of meat when crocs are killed for leather.
On the farm there is also a zoo. There is a great program at the farm including:
Cuddling a koala
Crocodile boat tour with feeding
Croc attack show
I had a really enjoyable day here and learnt a lot about the animals and the safety advice for avoiding getting your self killed!
Great Barrier Reef
No trip to Cairns is complete without visiting the barrier reef.
I booked to do a boat tour which included two dives (for certified divers only), snorkelling and a helicopter ride. If you are a new diver you can also do an intro dive as part of the trip.
Down under cruise and dive
My tour was with down under cruise and dive. The boat was called the evolution and it was really lovely.
It was clearly a new expensive boat and the staff were all lovely and well-trained.
My trip cost £180 inclusive of 1 dive, snorkelling and helicopter ride.
Additional dives were $20 and if you required a dive master (which I recommend you do especially if you are not really experienced yourself) it is an additional $10 per dive.
Stingers suits were free for divers, but if you were only snorkelling you had to pay $10 to hire a suit. Note you would be pretty stupid not to wear a suit.
None of these additional costs were highlighted to me at the time of booking which was a bit naughty.
We had to check in at 7:30 am and departure was at 8:15.
The skipper sailed to the first location and the certified divers were the first to jump off the boat and explore the reef.
There were only 3 certified divers on the boat which was great as the dive wasn’t to crowded.
We saw lots of fish, and bright corals and it felt a really privilege to dive the barrier reef especially since it’s sadly disappearing.
Though, the diving was actually not the best I had experienced when comparing to Asia. I guess that’s what happens when it becomes so commercialised.
After the first dive, I had the opportunity to do a second shortly after but I decided not to as it would make me late for the helicopter briefing.
Lunch was served at 11:30 am and consisted of various meats and salads and for vegetarians a veggie burger. The food was good.
At 12pm I had my safety briefing for the helicopter ride, which followed at 1:10.
Luckily for me as I was a solo traveller I got to sit in the front of the helicopter with the pilot allowing me to have the best views of the reef.
It was a really cool experience to ride in a helicopter and one I had never had before. The views were amazing and i would highly recommend.
Next up was another dive at a different reef location, on this dive another 2 people who had flown in on the helicopter joined.
Visiting the reef was a great day. The only thing that let it down for me was the lack of other English-speaking passengers on the boat.
Now I know I shouldn’t moan as I don’t speak any other language but with it being australia (where they speak English) I assumed there would be a few more English-speaking people I could talk to.
The boat was primarily filled with Asian tourists though and this made socialising pretty difficult with the language barrier.
Something to bear in mind if you are a solo traveler.
Cape tribulation and the Daintree rainforest
I booked a tour to cape tribulation and the daintree rainforest for $160 including lunch.
The day started early with a 6:55am pick up and a long drive to the daintree rainforest.
Our tour guide Doug, was really cheery and knowledgable (perhaps too much for that time of the morning!) but on the journey he explained various facts about rainforest and it’s history which was great.
I really felt like he had a vested interest in its history and culture which was infectious.
Once at the forest you take a short 45 minute walk through the rainforest and the guide tells you lots of interesting things about the wildlife and vegetation.
All I’ll say is, if you are scared of spiders then good luck!
Daintree river boat tour
Next up you hope on a boat in the daintree river and spot crocs!
Next up is a visit to cape tribulation. There is a track that takes you up to a view-point which allows panoramic views over the beach and surrounding land.
After the view-point we visited the beach, be-aware of your surroundings this is a hot spot for salt water crocs!
Set back from the beach is a picnic area and this is where we had lunch.
The veggie option was salad, bread rolls and potatoes. The meat option similar but with chicken and ham.
Daintree ice cream
Next up is a visit to the daintree ice cream company. Here they use the fruits of the rainforest to correct unique ice cream.
They serve a tasting bowl which changes in flavours daily, they were all delicious.
After icecream we drove to Mossman gorge. Once there you take a short shuttle bus ride to the gorge where you are able to swim in the water.
It’s bloody freezing though!
The final stop on the way is a view-point.
You arrive back in cairns at around 7pm so it’s a pretty long day with lots of driving though I would still recommend.
Cairns is an amazing town and although I only had a relatively short time there I really enjoyed it.
The travellers oasis is a great hostel.
The barrier reef diving and helicopter ride is a must though maybe do your research on the boat.