Leah Explores … Cairns

If you read my 2018 Travel Plans post you will have seen that I’m spending the year in Australia, and I decided to kick start this year in Cairns. I have to admit that I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Cairns. I was only planning on staying here a few days; finding my feet, seeing the Great Barrier Reef and a few other things and then heading on down the coast. Except when I went to open up my bank account the lady informed me that it would be two weeks for my new bank card to be mailed, and that I could have it sent on elsewhere but then they would have to cancel this one and reissue it. Cue my unintentional two week plus stay in Cairns.

Fitzroy Island

I stayed at Globetrotters Internatonal, it was a little further out of town and not a crazy party hostel, both of which appealed to me. It was really clean, pretty cheap, had free daily breakfast, free dinner twice a week, nights out, a pool, laundry and loads more. Two particular highlights for me were that one, there were no bunk beds, and two, they had fridge lockers for no extra charge.
There are loads of hostels throughout the city so you are not spoilt for choice, Giligans is the obvious choice for a party hostel if that’s your cup of tea. And if you fancy something a bit more luxurious there are ample hotels as well. I would advise staying away from the Novotel as the tree’s outside are literally overflowing with millions of bats. I would also say that accommodation with a pool isn’t essential as the lagoon is so easy to get to and absolutely beautiful.

I was feeling pretty flush when I arrived in Cairns, as it was my first stop and had money burning a hole in my pocket, therefore instead of fully embracing the hostel life I had a few “treat yo’self” moments.
This was actually recommended to me by my bestie who is the research queen. And she didn’t let me down, it was absolutely delicious. I had a Flat White and avocado toast (#basic) and trust me they didn’t disappoint.
Pantry 15
Just a little further along from Caffiend is Pantry 15 which also offers instagram worthy eats. I had their signature coffee and it was insanely decadent in the best possible way!
This place is tiny and tucked away down a little mall/alley but oh my god do they do amazing coffee! Totally worth searching out!
Tokyo Dumpling
I’d read about this in my Lonely Planet guide and went their for an early dinner one night, where I had the dumpling set meal, which included a miso soup, rice and 12 dumplings of my choice.
I went here after reading about it on another blog post about Cairns and I am so glad I managed to get a table and eat there. The portions are ginormous (I had enough to take home for dinner, and pretty reasonably priced too. But most importantly the food is absolutely delicious!

Cairns is described as a gateway town and I totally get it. With the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree right on it’s doorstep the city itself kind of gets overshadowed by these natural wonders.
Great Barrier Reef:
You can’t really come all the way up to Cairns without experiencing the largest living thing on earth. I went out with Passions of Paradise on their giant catamaran and had an amazing day. They take you to two different reef locations depending on the conditions that day. You have the option to scuba (if you’re certified or do an intro dive) or snorkel. They provide you with all the gear (stinger suits included!) and feed you ample amounts of food throughout the day.
I went with Uncle Brian’s on their Fun, Falls and Forest tour, which took me to Babinda Boulders, Josephine Falls, Millaa Millaa (aka the Peter Andre and Herbal Essence waterfall) and finally Lake Eacham. Unfortunately we experienced the most insane rain that I have ever seen, which meant a lot of the planned activities had to be cut short and couldn’t go ahead as planned for safety reasons. I still had an amazing day and would love to go back to experience the falls and lake in all their beauty, not half submerged under raging rapids.
Esplanade and Lagoon:
You can’t go on the beach or in the ocean in Cairns due to the crocs and stingers, but they have the most beautiful lagoon and esplanade broadwalk which hugs the beachfront. Taking a stroll from the hostel into the city along the esplanade became an almost daily occurrence for me, not just because it’s beautiful but also because it meant that I didn’t have to walk past the tree’s full of bats!
Fitzroy Island
If you take a 45 minute ferry from Cairns you end up on Fitzroy Island which just happens to be home of the best beach in Queensland, and the whole of Australia; Nudey Beach. I basically took the trip just for this beach and I wasn’t disappointed, it was exactly what I imagine paradise to look like. It’s a 20minute hike from the ferry terminal and so worth it. There are plenty of other activities you can partake in on the Island; kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking and snorkelling. There is also Foxy’s bar for lunch and drinks if you don’t choose to have the lunch option with the ferry package.
Kuranda & Surrounding Area’s
I really wanted to take the Scenic Railway up to Kuranda and then the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway back down, but due to the cyclone there were landslides and so no train for me. I instead hired a car and made the trip up there, skipping the cable car journey too. Kuranda is a artsy little village nestled away in the middle of the rainforest. It’s a cute place to wander around and there are plenty of stalls to browse and shop from. There is also a Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, the Kuranda Koala Gardens, Birdworld Kuranda and the Rainforestation Nature Park close by as well, so plenty to keep you busy in the area. If you’re going that way I would highly recommend checking out Baron Falls which are absolutely stunning, and can be accessed by the train, or you can hike there or do as I did which was drive there and then hike to see the falls.
Palm Cove
Located a 30minute drive north of Cairns, Palm Cove is an absolute paradise. I ventured here the same day as I went to Kuranda, and happily spent a few hours strolling along the beach and soaking in the stunning scenery. Palm Cove is a little beach town that gets it’s name from the palm trees that line the beach. I actually discovered this place as it was on a postcard I sent to my friend, and I figured if it was good enough to make it on a postcard it had to be worth checking out in real life.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t “hate” Cairns, and there was definitely plenty to do there, but I definitely think it’s the sort of place you only need to visit for a few days, by the end of my two weeks I was more than ready to head on somewhere new.