The one good thing about having friends and family that choose to up sticks and schlep across the world in search of sea, sun, and shiny new adventures is that it presents you with the opportunity for really great holidays to places you may never have visited with free accommodation thrown in. This is the situation I found myself in when a family member decided she wanted to leave England behind and try a new life out in Cairns, Australia. Having visited previously on a holiday around Australia, she fell in love with the place and having been over on a number of occasions, it is easy to see why! With so much on offer, it is good to know that not everything has to be crammed into the one trip, but for those doing a one off visit, here are my top ten things to experience in Cairns:
Now this is not unique to me, but all the same, top of the list has to be the Great Barrier Reef — the only living organism that can be seen from the moon! Depending on budget, you can either stay on one of the islands, which accommodate visitors in either remote luxury hideaways or basic camps, or take a cruise and enjoy a spot of snorkelling or diving (many companies offer equipment rental). There is also the option of a glass bottomed boat for those who do not want to get wet. Either way you are in for some stunning scenery, so beautiful it is protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Trust. Nothing prepares you for array of stunning colours on show and the buzz you get searching for Nemo and his friends.
Another World Heritage Site not to be missed is the Wet Tropics Rainforest, which surrounds Cairns. The most well known of these areas are Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest rainforest. There is plenty of wow factor here with amazing scenery including fast flowing rivers, deep gorges, and an abundance of waterfalls.
Take a ride over the rainforest canopy on the Skyrail to experience all the sights and sounds and to take advantage of the guides interesting and witty commentary. Kuranda, the village in the rainforest is your destination where you can check out the world famous Kuranda markets. When you are all shopped out, take the Kuranda Scenic Railway and cruise down the mountain range into Cairns.
Whilst exploring the Daintree Rainforest, take the opportunity to educate yourselves about the indigenous population and learn about ancient Aboriginal culture and customs with Adventure North’s Daintree Dreaming day tour. They also offer overnight safaris combining Cape Tribulation and Cooktown, with Aboriginal elders providing educational guided walks.
For the thrill seekers amongst you who like to see things from a different perspective, there are plenty of opportunites to hurl yourself out of a plane for an adrenaline fuelled view of the area. Recommended by many who like to live life on the edge, I have to say that the Skyrail was high enough for me.
Following on and keeping the thrill seeking theme going, there are plenty of perfectly good bungy towers. There is no need to miss out on this either as the AJ Hackett bungy station in the rainforest north of Cairns is the only site in Australia open 365 day per year — so there’s no excuse.
For excitement on terra firma do not miss out on a tour through the Tropical Tablelands region, ancient volcanic scenery with picturesque waterfalls. Take a swim in beautiful crater lakes and try your hand at Platypus spotting. Good luck with that though, the Platypus is very shy and elusive.
If you like splashing around in the water why not try braving the Tully River rapids. Departing from Cairns and Mission Beach this is an ideal activity for when the weather might not be at its best. It is probably best to pack for every eventuality, so visit a good retailer like Outdoor Look before you go. If you are going to get wet, why not do it properly. And if you are worried you do not have the correct gear with you to keep out the cold, you can hire thermals and spray suits there.
There are also plenty of other activities to take advantage of including: fishing, quad biking, horse riding, and visiting the numerous wildlife parks (particularly if you missed the platypus at Tropical Tablelands). You can also have lots of fun on the water with a host of water sports on offer, island ferries, or perhaps a spot of hand gliding — the choice is endless and you will not have any problem filling your time.
Finally, so that you can fit in some quality time with your nearest and dearest, or even if you are not on a family visit, there are plenty of top class eateries from funky cafes to top notch restaurants. If you still have energy to burn, you can experience the nightlife in at one of Cairns great nightclubs and burn off all those calories. Or if dancing’s not your bag then you can do a spot of souvenir shopping in the abundant shops and night markets around.
All in all, no matter what you like doing, a holiday in Cairns has something for everyone!