I originally planned to stay in cairns for 2 nights, but even after 12 days I was still sad to say goodbye to this beautiful city. If you like small and chilled city vibes where everything is accessible on foot, then you’ll love Cairns! I’m excited to share some of my favourite moments + tips to help your stay!
CAIRNS BACKPACKERS SHUTTLE is the cheapest mode of transport from the airport
to the city right to your hostel! The cost is $6 one way and $10 return and they cover most of the main hostels in Cairns. You can book online to guarantee a spot. Allow at least 30 minutes between your flight landing and you catching the shuttle. No stress if you miss your allocated shuttle as they just move your booking to the next one.
MAD MONKEY BACKPACKERS
I stayed at Mad Monkey Backpackers on Sheridan Street. With all the amenities they had to offer, it felt like I was staying at a hotel but at a hostel price! I’ve never been happier with a hostel experience and this is why…
- the rooms have been fully refurbished in 2017 – new beds, bedding, floors, and large lockers to fit all your belongings
- Free wifi throughout the hostel (that actually works! I’m missing it now that I’ve made my way down the East Coast)
- All rooms have air conditioning – a must have in cairns if you’re there in the summer
- Only 4-6 beds per dorm room
- Free hot breakfast served everyday from 8-11AM. Pancakes, baked beans, toast, cereal, varieties of spreads, tea, coffee, juice, etc.
- Fully equipped kitchen and a cool room to keep all your food fresh
- Full bar and restaurant on site with very reasonable priced food and drinks ($4 wine, $12 jugs of beer, $10 pizza, etc.)
- Free local gym access only minutes walk away
- Free bike hires
- Free BBQ every Saturday – hotdogs and burgers and they even accommodated to vegan guests with yummy vegan patties!
- Common area – so beautifully lit with fire torches and fairly lights, the common room was my absolute favourite part of the hostel!
- Cozy TV room with Netflix
- Bean bag terrace
- Pool and comfy sun beds
- Awesome atmosphere, great vibes, and excellent staff!
Gilligan’s is the most popular hostel in Cairns. The biggest night club is situated downstairs of the hostel and they have events on every night. It is a popular backpackers destination, specially for those party animals who don’t mind being up till 3AM every night 😉
Although I didn’t get to experience it myself, I heard a lot of great reviews on Dreamtime Hostel while I was traveling. Dreamtime is more laid back and more of a relaxing environment.
You’ll notice I have no restaurant suggestions on this entry, that’s because eating out takes a big chunk out of your budget (at least $25 per meal), so if you’re looking to save money it’s a good idea to buy groceries and meal prep. Look for the reduced sections in all grocery stores, they’re usually your best bet on finding cheap food.
- RUSTY’S LOCAL MARKET – a lovely shopping experience! Walk around the market and sample fresh fruit and veg from the locals and purchase at a fraction of a price compared to chained grocery stores. Make sure to check them out on Grafton Street between Friday – Sunday!
- COLES – situated in Cairns central shopping centre. Coles is reasonably priced and known to be the cheapest chain store in Australia.
- WOOLWORTHS – 2 entrances, one on Abbot street and another on Lake street. second least expensive chain store after Coles but they have really good reduced section on organic groceries if that’s what you’re after!
BARS & CLUBS
- GILLIGAN’S – biggest club in Cairns and well known for its wild party culture. Usually they charge $20 cover but most hostels hand out vouchers for free cover and $5 drinks. An appeal to the younger crowd with top 40 music, although this changes every night.
- THE WOOLSHED – bar food is served until 10pm and as soon as the food is off the tables, the crowd gets on the tables and dances the night away.
- THE PIER BAR – located right on the beach and famous for the “best happy hour in town” by the locals, Pier Bar offers a great atmosphere for pre-drinks! Make sure to check them out on Pierpoint Road, happy hour from 5-7PM everyday!
- SALT HOUSE – if you are in Cairns on a Monday night, this is the place to be. Chill vibes, beautiful atmosphere, great music, right on the water, less backpackers, more locals, and an older crowd. In case you didn’t catch on, Salt House was my favourite bar in Cairns.
THINGS TO DO
- Sail, snorkel or dive in the Great Barrier Reef
- *Walk the forest trails of Daintree Forest & visit Cape Tribulation
- *Visit Etherton Tabletop waterfalls
- *Swim and BBQ at Lake Eacham
- Sunbathe by the Lagoon
- Visit the Botanical Gardens
- Walk the Esplanade
*Click the link to find out how to do these tours for a fraction of the price!
TIPS FOR BOOKING TOURS
Cairns is a great first stop if you’re planning on traveling the East Coast. It’s relatively cheaper to stay and it has so many tours to offer! Here are some tips for getting the best price on your tours.
- Decide on which tours you’d like to do while traveling the entire East Coast
- Research the company that best suits your interest and budget and visit their website to get a quote for each individual tour
- Once you have a quote from each tour, add them all up and take the final quote to a travel agency. If you approach the right agency, they can usually buy the same package at a discounted price.
- The more you book with an agency, the bigger the discount they can offer you. Don’t worry if you don’t know your travel plans yet and wanting to go with the flow. Agencies can book open dated tickets to secure your spot and you reserve the date later on.
- Be flexible. If the company you’re interested in has sold out, consider other companies. Most tours in the East Coast cover the same areas/activities.
- I would highly recommend BACKPACKERS WORLD TRAVEL on Lake Street. Their staff is SO lovely and incredibly understanding. I went in thinking I knew exactly what I wanted and after about 2 hours, they completely changed my itinerary for the best! They used their knowledge and expertise to tick all the boxes of my East Coast to-do list. And the best part? Because they are the biggest travel agency in Australia, they were able to land me an unbelievable discount!
TIPS FROM THE LOCALS
I love getting to know a city through the local’s eyes. Although I didn’t get to check out all the suggestions below, I trust the locals to know a their city the best. Check out these local recommendations when in Cairns and let me know how you like them!
- ACRO YOGA – these beautiful souls made my second last night in Cairns! You can join them for free every Sunday and Thursday by the lagoon from 7-9PM.
- RATTLE N RUM on the Esplanade
- THREE WOLVES – trendy “Melbourne-like” bar
- GREEN ANT CANTINA
- CRYSTAL CASCADES – for swimming and cliff jumping
- STONEY CREEK & FALLS
- DOUGLAS WALKING TRACK – takes you up to the Glacier Rock, providing beautiful views of Cairns
- RED PEAK WALKING TRACK – located in the Botanical Gardens, this track will give you beautiful views of the ocean and the airport