A tropical, beautiful, koala-filled paradise.
When you think of Australia, you think of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
You think of the Outback, the Opera House, and the abundance of Irish expats who are living over there at the moment.
You probably don’t immediately think of Cairns, the North Queensland city that’s so tropical, so stunning, and so otherworldly that you’d almost be forgiven for forgetting you were still Down Under.
I didn’t anyway – that was until I travelled there and Cairns instantly became my favourite place on the Aussie east coast.
Here’s why, and here’s also why you should absolutely try to visit Cairns at least once in your life.
1. The Great Barrier Reef is right there
You cannot visit Cairns without going to see the Reef.
It is a wonder of the world. It is massive. It is stunning. It involves going on a boat trip for a day, having a BBQ out on deck, and then putting a snorkel on your face and shoving your head beneath the water to be absolutely blown away.
Countless different companies offer Reef day trips from Cairns, with some even offering overnight stays out on the water, so if you’re in the mood to see some turtles, some clown fish, and some bangin’ coral, make sure to book yourself a spot.
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Snack time on the reef ?? Have you ever wondered these guys are called Green Sea Turtles… when they don't look green? Well, they're named after the layer of green fat that lies under their shell. This quirky-coloured fat is the result of their mostly veggie diet – like this sea grass ?⠀ ⠀ ?: @jacintashackleton⠀ ⠀ #visitbundaberg #southerngreatbarrierreef #gbrmarinepark #lovethereef #greatbarrierreef #thisisqueensland #seeaustralia #turtletuesday
2. It’s hot
It’s not just Australia hot. It’s next level hot.
Right up the top of Queensland, a stone’s throw from Papua New Guinea (sort of), the heat that you’ll be subjected to in Cairns will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before unless you’ve travelled to somewhere hotter.
It’s heavy (in a good way), it’s suppressive (in a great way), and you’ll find yourself wishing for rain every moment of every day.
Never wear clothes again.
3. Kuranda is only a short bus ride away
Go to Cairns and you have to go to Kuranda. You just have to.
The rainforest village above the city can be accessed by either a Skyrail cable car that travels over the rainforest itself, or by a standard bus that brings you up a hill.
The bus is, unsurprisingly, the considerably cheaper option, but honestly whatever way you get there doesn’t really matter because the result will be the exact same.
Home to a koala sanctuary, a butterfly sanctuary, a bird world, and a scenic forest railway walk that’ll have your IG hopping for days, you’ll be totally blown away that such a small, adorable, and tropical little town exists hidden up in the trees in North Queensland.
Kuranda isn’t the only place that you can hold a koala in Australia, but it is the only place that you can hold a koala named Paul.
4. You’re pretty much surrounded by rainforest
And it’s breathtaking.
If you’ve been traveling around Australia for a bit and hitting up the major cities, you’ll be totally thrown when you hit Cairns – purely because of how distinctive it is.
Looking out at the coast as you chill in the city centre lagoon (yes, there is a lagoon in the city centre), all you’ll see is trees and mountains and a tropical landscape that would give South America a run for its money.
5. The city is quaint but buzzing
Cairns is tiny but that doesn’t mean that it’s not vibrant.
Take a stroll around during the day and you’ll be struck by the number of quiet spots laid right out on the coast overlooking the ocean, ideal for hanging out with a cocktail.
… Or baking in the hot sun with your eighteenth bottle of water that day.
Have a wander at night and you’ll be hardly able to avoid the busy bars and restaurants dotted through the city, down the boardwalk, and beyond.
The hostels are few, but they’re decent, and if you stay in one you’ll have an abundance of parties and BBQs right on your doorstep.
They’re also dirt cheap, because hostels.
6. There’s a Greek restaurant called Fetta’s and it changed my life
Breads and dips will never be the same again.