Cairns: The Ultimate Backpacker Destination In Australia?

Cairns The Ultimate Backpacker Destination In Australia

Cairns is undeniably one of the most sought-after destinations for backpackers in Australia, and it’s easy to understand why. This vibrant city offers a blend of attractions, from the ancient Daintree Rainforest and lively nightlife to stunning beaches and thrilling adventure activities. Moreover, it serves as the gateway to the magnificent Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system.

During a recent visit to Cairns, Ultimate Travel’s Max explored the city and its surrounding wonders. Here’s what he had to say:

What was the highlight of your trip?

Swimming with turtles on the Mackay & Udine reefs was definitely the highlight for me. It was an incredible experience to observe these magnificent creatures up close. The reef itself was teeming with diverse marine life, making it an awe-inspiring snorkeling adventure.

What do you think of Cairns as a city?

Cairns struck the perfect balance for me—it’s not too big or too small. Everything is conveniently within walking distance, including shops, restaurants, bars, and clubs. The city has a distinct tropical vibe, and the weather during my visit was fantastic, especially compared to the winter temperatures in Sydney. The nightly spectacle of fruit bats flying overhead was an unexpected and memorable sight.

How long did you spend in Cairns? Where did you stay?

I spent a total of 7 days in Cairns, staying at Nomads Serpents. The hostel provided a relaxed and sociable atmosphere, and I enjoyed spending time by the pool, playing volleyball and table tennis. The nearby bar served delicious food, and it was a great place to socialize with fellow backpackers.

Did you go anywhere else?

Yes, I took a 2-night trip to Cape Tribulation, located about 2 hours’ drive from Cairns in the enchanting Daintree Rainforest. While I loved Cairns, it was refreshing to explore another part of Northern Queensland. Cape Tribulation Beach House, where I stayed, was absolutely incredible. With its proximity to the beach and a range of accommodation options, including private rooms, it offered a memorable stay. The bar and restaurant at Beach House served amazing food, ensuring a delightful culinary experience throughout my stay.

Also read: Top 10 Experiences on Australia’s East Coast

Did you engage in any activities in the rainforest?

During the day, I participated in Jungle Surfing, which involved zip-lining through the lush jungle canopy. I also enjoyed horse riding on the beach and kayaking. One of the standout experiences was a snorkel trip with Ocean Safaris, where I had the opportunity to swim with turtles. The tour was exceptional, and as evening fell, I relished a delicious meal at the Beach House restaurant, followed by conversations around a small beach bonfire, enjoying the mesmerizing starry sky.

Did you encounter any wildlife?

I spotted several crocodiles during the Active Tropics Cape Trib tour, including Scar Face, a massive crocodile believed to be around 85 years old.

What else did you do in Cairns?

I engaged in white water rafting, took a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands, went diving, relaxed by the lagoon, tried fishing, and explored the city. It was an action-packed and fun-filled holiday.

Your diving pictures look amazing. How was the experience?

I embarked on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef with Deep Sea Divers. As I had never dived before, I opted for an introductory dive, and it exceeded all expectations. The staff were fantastic and ensured everyone felt comfortable and safe. After thorough safety instructions and gear preparation, we descended into the underwater realm in small groups accompanied by an instructor. Witnessing the incredible marine life beneath the surface was simply breathtaking—I encountered Wally, a massive Maori Wrasse, found Nemo, and even spotted a reef shark. It was an unforgettable experience, and I can’t wait to dive again.

What is the nightlife like for backpackers in Cairns?

Cairns offers a vibrant and lively nightlife scene, similar to Sydney. I particularly enjoyed visiting Woolshed and Gilligans. Woolshed is an excellent bar to start the evening, and afterward, you can head to Gilligans, which transitions into a lively club atmosphere. Both venues offered enticing drink specials, making it a memorable night out.

Is Cairns budget-friendly for backpackers?

Absolutely! Cairns is considerably cheaper than Sydney. For instance, you can book a week-long stay in a dorm room at Nomads Cairns for just $120. While food prices are similar to other cities, the availability of drink specials balances out the expenses.

Would you recommend others to visit Cairns? How much time do you think is necessary?

I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Cairns. With its myriad of attractions, you’ll never run out of things to do in the city itself. However, I must say that some of the real highlights lie beyond Cairns, such as the rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands. To fully explore Cairns and its surroundings, I would recommend at least a week. If you have the luxury of staying longer, you’ll still find plenty of activities to keep you engaged, even if it means simply relaxing by the lagoon on the esplanade.

What’s next on your bucket list?

I have a trip to the Northern Territory with Topdeck booked later this year. I’ll be exploring Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, as well as spending time in Darwin. I visited Uluru last year and had an incredible time, so I’m eagerly looking forward to exploring another part of the Northern Territory. I’ve heard amazing things about Kakadu NP, and embarking on the tour with Topdeck will undoubtedly be a fantastic adventure.

Also read: Seven Natural Wonders of Australia

Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu are amazing to visit in Australia!

A massive thank you to Deep Sea Divers Den, Foaming Fury, Active Tropics, Waterfall Wanderers, Ocean Safari and Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours for having me on your tours (I had an awesome time!) & to Nomads Cairns and Cape Trib Beach House for giving me a place to rest my head after a fun day of activities!

Fancy a trip to Cairns? Get in touch with us for suggestions and to book your trip/accommodation!

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Also read: Things to do in Queensland

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