(population 105 000)
Tourists flock to Cairns not because of what is in Cairns but because of what is around Cairns. However the city itself does have some interesting things to see.
Pier Marketplace has expensive clothes shops, souvenier shops, cafes and restaurants.
Undersea World aquarium is also there. It is open 8am to 8pm. Entry is $10. 20% discount vouchers are available from hostels.
Rusty’s Bazaar on Sheriden St has a fruit, vegetable, art and craft market on Friday night and Saurday morning and Sunday morning.
Cairns does not have a beach. It is situated on a muddy flat that is
exposed at low tide.
Tusa Dive 93 The Esplanade. Phone 40311248.
Taka II Dive 131 Lake St. Phone 40518722.
Prices vary from $350 to $450 for a five day course. Cheaper courses spend longer in the classroom and pool. More expensive courses spend longer on the reef.
Reef Teach has a well worth while lecture to learn about the reef before diving. Lectures are nighlty 6.15pm to 8.30pm except Sunday at Boland’s Centre, 14 Spence St. Phone 4051 6882.
Other Adventure Sports
Adventure Company has one day wilderness canoe paddling tours on Musgrave River for $89. Phone 4051 4777. Three day tours are available from Mission Beach.
Blazing Saddles and Springmount Station (phone 4093 4493) have half day horse trail rides for $65 including Cairns transfers.
Dan’s Tours has full day mountain bike rides to the Daintree Rainforest for $95. Phone 4033 0128.
AJ Kackett has bungee jumping at Smithfield, 15km north of Cairns for $95 including transfer. Phone 4057 7188.
Rapjumping Cairns has unlimited jumping. Free famous rap t/shirt included. Cliffes range from 25 metres to 80 metres high in the Barron Gorge. Seven day a week pick up from Cairns accommodation at 11am(?), drop off 3pm(?). http://www.rapjumping.com
Skydive Cairns has tandem skydiving. Phone 4035 9667.
Hot are balloon flights for 30 minutes or one hour are run by Hot Air (phone 1800 800829) and Champagne Balloon Flights (phone 4035 9156).
Northern Air has short joy flights over the reef and islands.
Phone 4035 9156.
There are innumerable tour operators out of Cairns
Half day tours take in the city sights. Expect to pay $25.
Lonely Planet recommends Strikie’s Safaris 4WD day trip for $85. Phone 1800 809999.
Atherton Tableland Tours
Day bus tours usually include waterfalls, the lakes and Kuranda markets for $65 to $85. Tours spefically geared to backpackers are a little cheaper.
See Cape York entry below..
Backpackers Hostels - Esplanade
International House is big with 200 beds and fun atmosphere. 67 The Esplanade. Phone 07 4031 1424. Freecall 1800 682647. Dorm $21, single room $30, double or twin room $48 to $50 with airconditioning and TV. http://www.internationalhostel.com.au
Caravella’s Backpackers 77 is a big old clean place. 77 The Esplanade. Phone 07 4051 2159. Dorm $20, single $40, double or twin room $50 or $60 with private bathroom. All rooms have airconditioning. http://www.caravella.com.au
Hostel 89 at 89 The Esplanade is small and the staff helpful. Phone 07 4031 7477. All rooms have air-con.
YHA Cairns Esplanade at 93 The Esplanade is spacious. Phone 07 4031 1919. Some rooms have air-con and each dorm room has its own bathroom. Dorm $20, double $46 with air-conditioning. http://www.yha.com.au
Caravella Backpackers is at 149 The Esplanade. Phone 07 4031 5680. Dorm $20, single room $40, double or twin room $50 or $60 with private bathroom. http://www.caravella.com.au
Bel-Air By Sea Hostel is in a renovated old Queensland style house. 155-157 The Esplanade. Phone 07 4031 4790. All rooms have air-con. Breakfast included. Pool.
Backpackers Hostels - Back from the Esplanade
Parkview Backpackers Hostel is friendly and relaxed set in a large rambling old house in large garden. 174 Grafton Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4051 3700. Freecall 1800 652215.
Captain Cook’s Backpackers Hostel 204-212 Sheridan Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4051 6811. Huge converted motel. Each unit has own bathroom and kitchen. Two pools, bar, restaurant.
YHA Cairns Central Backpackers 20-26 McLeod Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4051 0772. Dorm $23 to $26. Car parking. http://www.yha.com.au
Calypso Backpackers 5 Digger Street, Cairns. The hostel is in an old renovated Queensland house set in a tropical garden. Phone 07 4031 0910. Freecall 1800 815628. Dorm $22, double $48. Pool, bar, restaurant. http://www.calypsobackpackers.com.au
Inn the Tropics Backapckers Hostel 141 Sheridan Street, Cairns.
Phone 07 4031 1088. Freecall 1800 807 055. Dorm $20, single $38 ($48 with
bathroom), double $48 ($59 with bathroom). Pool, kitchen. http://www.cairns.net.au/~innthetropics/
Rosie's Backpackers 136 Grafton Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4041 0249.
Castaways Backapckers 207 Sheridan Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4051 1238.Pool, free barbeque some nights. Rooms have fridges. http://www.castawaysbackapckers.com.au
Gilligans Backapckers Hostel and Resort 57-89 Grafton Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4041 6566. http://www.gilligansbackpackers.com.au
Cairns Beach House Backpackers 239 Sheridan Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4041 4116. Dorm $20, double $44 to $56. http://www.cairnsbeachhouse.com.au
Asylum Backpackers 149 Grafton Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4031 7921. Dorm $17, single $30, double $40 to $60. http://www.cairns.net.au/~cairnsbackpackers/
Globe Palace Backpackers 86 Lake Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4031 7921.
Gone Walkabout Hostel 274 Draper Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4051 6160. Freecall 1800 045 161. Dorm $18 to $20, single $25 to $30, double or twin $40 to $45. http://www.gonewalkabout.com.au
Travellers Castle Hostel 209 Lake Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4031 2229.
Serpent Hostel & Bar 341 Lake Street, Cairns. Phone 07 4040 7772. Freecall 1800 737 736.
Backpackers Hostels - Further from downtown Cairns
JJ’s Backpackers Phone 07 4051 7642. 11 Charles Stret, Cairns North.
Tropic Days Backpackers 28 Bunting Street, Cairns, off Scott Street, past the railways station and the showgrounds. Itis quite a long way from the beach. Phone 07 4041 1521. Dorm $20, double $45, camping $11 per person. http://www.tropicdays.com.au
Geckos Backpackers 187 Bunda Street, Parramatta Park. Phone 07 4031 1344. http://www.geckosbackpackers.com.au
Utopia Backpackers 702 Bruce Highway, Woree. Phone 07 4054 4444.
YHA - Youth Hostels Australia (Hostelling International) http://www.yha.org.au
The Esplanade between Shields and Aplin St is lined with restaurants with a variety of cuisines.
Pubs and Nightclubs
Most hostels have vouchers for cheap or free meals at a number of pubs
and nightclubs. Popular places for food are The Beach at the corner
of Abbott and Aplin Sts, The Wool Shed on Shields St Mall and Samuel’s
Saloon near the corner of hartley and Lake Sts.
Pubs and Bars with Live Music
Johno’s Blues Bar upstairs at the corner of the Esplanade and Shields St has blues, rock and R&B bands till late every night.
Other pubs which regularly have live music are Fox & Firkin Cnr Spence and Lake Sts, Crown Hotel Cnr Shields and Grafton Sts, Pier Tavern at the pier marketplace.
Cairn’s is a big party town and the nightclub scene is wild! The complex at the corner of Lake and hartley Sts has Samuels Saloon backpacker bar, the huge Playpen International nightclub, and the classy Court Jester Bar. Also hugely popular are the Wool Shed nightclub on Shields St Mall and Beach nightclub, cnr Abbott and Aplin Sts.
Cairns 5 Cinemas at 108 Grafton St screens mainstream new releases.
Reef Casino takes up a whole block bordering the Esplanade and
Abbott, Spence and Wharf Sts.
THERE AND AWAY
By Plane - Domestic
Qantas/Sunstate has an office on the corner of Shields and Lake Sts. Phone 131313.
Ansett is at 13 Spence St. Phone 131300.
Both have daily flights to Brisbane ($428), Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Townsville, Darwin and Alice Springs.
Qantas flies to Lizard Island ($195) and Thursday Island ($324). Ansett flies to Weipa and Mt Isa. Flight West flies to Cooktown ($75), Cape York and Torres Strait. Hinterland Aviation flies to Cow bay near Cape Tribulation ($83).
By Plane - International
Cairns has regular flights to North America, Asia and Papua New Guinea. Qantas flies to Singapore daily except Thurday when it flies to Hong Kong instead.
Air Niugini has an office at 4 Shields St. Phone 4051 4177. Air Niugini and Qantas fly to Port Moresby.
Cairns airport is 3.5km north of town.
Australia Coach shuttle meets all incoming flights with downtown dropoff and pickup. $4.50 one way.
A taxi is around $11.
All buses operate from Trinity Wharf.
Greyhound Pioneer has 5 coaches a day south along the coast to Brisbane, 27 hours, $168. Phone 132030.
McCafferty’s does too. Phone 131499.
Coral Coaches has daily buses to Port Douglas ($16), Cape Tribulation ($28) and Cooktown on the inland road ($47) or coast road ($52). There is a weekly service to Weipa. Phone 4031 7577.
White Car Coaches runs buses irregularly to Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands. Phone 4091 1855.
Five trains a week run the 1631km journey south to Brisbane in 32 hours. It is more comfortable than by bus. The Sunlander runs three times weekly and the Spirit of the Tropics once. Economy sleepers are $165, 1st class sleeper $253. The luxury Queenslander which runs once a week is more expensive at $389 including meals.
Call Queenland Rail on 132232.
All major car rental companies have agents at the airport and in town. There are also numerous smaller local operators which are probably cheaper. Cars are a great way to get around as they enable you to see more picturesque Australian countryside at your own leisurely pace stopping and looking at small towns along the way. Note 4wds are required on the Cooktown and Cape Tribulation roads.
The Quicksilver fast catamaran runs daily to Port Douglas 1 1/2
hours away for $20 one way, $30 return. Phone 4099 5500.
Sunbus runs regular local buses with major routes operated 24 hours. Route map and timetable is posted at the Lake St transit centre in City Place.
Most hostels and car hire places hire out bikes.
Fitzroy Island (29km southeast of Cairns)
Fitzroy Island is a continental island. Good coral for snorkelling is just 50 metres offshore. There is a dive school. Being a larger island there are walking trails, a good one is to the islands peak.
Fitzroy Island Resort has bunk rooms with shared bathroom for $28 a bed. Kitchen, laundry pool, snack bar, bar, laundry, watersports gear and dive school.
Units are $240 single, $340 double and include breakfast, dinner and activities.
There is also a council camping ground with sites for $15 per night. Campers can use most resort facilities.
Great Adventures (phone 1800 079080) and Sunlover Cruises (1800 810512) both have return trips for $30. Day trippers have acces to resort facilities.
Frankland Island Cruise and Dive has trips to undeveloped national park islands for $125. Includes lunch and snorkel gear.
Lizard Island (300km north of Cairns)
See Cooktown entry below.
As you travel inland the land rises steply to the lush green Atherton tablelands. The historic railway through 15 tunnels ($25 one way, $40 return, phone 4052 6249) and Skyrail gondola ($27 one way, $47 return, phone 4038 1555) take tourists from Cairns to Kuranda on the tablelands. The trip is a major tourist attraction in itself.
There is also a normal bus for $7 operated by White Car Coaches 5 times a weekday, twice on Saturday and Sunday leaving cairns from outside the Tropical Paradise Travel centre (phone 4051 9533).
Kuranda has an art and craft market Wednesday, Thurday, Friday and Sunday.
At the market there is also a bird house, butterfly house, a house to view nocturnal rainforest animals like fruit bats and echidnas.
There are some beautiful rainforest walks at Kuranda, especially good to see is Barron Falls and Gorge.
Kuranda has accomodation, including Kuranda Backpackers Hostel
located on Arara Street (corner Barang Street), phone 07 4093 7355.
Quicksilver at the marina has 5 day courses for $439. Phone 4099 5050.
Port Douglas Dive Centre has 4 day courses for $530. Phone 4099 5327.
Aussie Dive has courses for $350. Phone 1800 646548.
Quicksilver has fast catamarans for day trips to the outer reef for $130. Includes snorkelling gear, semi-submersible ride, underwater observatory viewing and lunch. Phone 4099 5050.
There are are operators with smaller boats to the outer reef and the closer in coral cays.
There are a number of operators with 4WD tours to cape Tribulation via Mossman Gorge and Cooktown. Many of these tours from Cairns also pick up in Port Douglas.
Resorts - Port Douglas
The massive luxury Sheraton Mirage Resort is just outside Port Douglas. Phone 1800 818831. Rooms from $430.
There are many other hotel, though not as expensive, on smaller blocks of land on and around Macrossan Street, the main street of Port Douglas
Backpackers Hostels - Port Douglas
Port O’ Call Lodge Backpackers Hostel Corner of Port Street and Craven Close, Port Douglas. Hone 07 4099 5422. Freecall 1800 892 800. Pool, kitchen, bar, restaurant, free bus to and from Cairns Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, bike hire. YHA affiliated. Dorm $23 to $28, double or twin room $69 to $110. http://www.portocall.com.au.
Dougies Backpackers Hostel 111 Davidson Street, Port Douglas. Phone 07 4099 6200. http://www.dougies.com.au
Getting To and From Port Douglas
Coral Coaches runs several buses a day to Cairns and Mossman. Irregular service to Cape Tribulation and Cooktown and Friday service to Weipa (13 hours, $220). The Port Douglas bus station is just off Wharf Street.
Quicksilver has a daily fast catamaran service from Cairns for $20 one way, $30 return. Phone 4099 5500.
Getting Around Port Douglas
Some car hire companies have offices. They are on Macrossan St.
Port Douglas is small and a bike is a good cheap option. Port Douglas
Bike Hire at 40 Macrosan Street, phone 4099 5799, and the Port o’
Call Lodge hire out bikes.
Mossman is a quiet town.
Mossman Gorge with beautiful waterfalls in the rainforest is 5km west of town.
Accomodation in the small town include:
Royal Exchange Hotel which is in town. Phone unknown. Single $17, double $32.
Demi-View Motel Phone 4098 1277. 41 Front St. Rooms $50-$60.
Cockatoo Cabins 1km south of town. Phone 4098 2222. Double $60.
TRIBULATION NATIONAL PARK (population nominal)
Youth Hostels - Cape Tribulation Area
(population 1300) (334km north of Cairns by road. Either road is slow)
Hillcrest Guest House Hope St. Phone 07 4069 5305. Single and double rooms. Shared facilities. Includes breakfast.
Cooktown Caravan Park and campground. Unpowered and powered campsites. 14 Hope Street. Phone 07 4069 5536.
Flight West flys to Cooktown daily from Cairns.
Coral Coaches has services almost daily to and from Cairns. Phone 07 4098 2600.
Endeavour Hire Car is the only hire car operator in town. Phone 07 4069 6100.
For taxi phone 07 4069 5387.
Cape York is a remote undeveloped place. There are rugged 4WD tracks with numerous deep river crossings recommended only for experienced drivers. The roads are impassable in the wet season. The dry season is June to October. Driving to Cape York is one of Australia’s great 4WD adventures. There are tours to Cape York which depart from Cairns. They cary in lenghth from one to two weeks.
4WD camping tours depart from Cairns and take one to two weeks. They operate in the dry season only. Expect to pay $1000-$1400 for a one week fly/drive tour and $1500 to $2500 for a two week trip. Operators include Wild Track Adventure Safaris (phone 4055 2247), Oz Tours Safari (phone 1800 079006), Australian Outback Travel (phone 4031 5833), Heritage 4WD Tours (phone 4038 2186) and Kamp Outback Safaris (4031 2628),
Qantas/Sunstate flys daily from Cairns to Bamaga 40km from the tip of Cape York for $320, Thursday Island in Torres Stait for $320 and the mining town of Weipa for $240.
Flight West also operates on the peninsula.
Cape York Air does the mail run on weekdays and will take passengers for $195 to $390.
Coral Coaches operates buses once a week between Cairns and Weipa from April to October. Phone 4098 2600.
Jardine Shipping operates a twice weekly vehicular barge from Cairns to Thursday Island and Bamaga. $750 per vehicle. Passengers are taken once a week for $250 one way, $450 return to Cairns. Phone 4035 1900.
Gulf Freight Services operates weekly vehicular barges from Weipa to Karumba in Gulf Country. Phone 4069 8619 or 1800 640079.
Pajinka Wilderness Lodge is a luxury resort and campground. Phone 4062 2100. Cabins are fro $230 to $270.
Punsland Bay Private Reserve has cabins for $95 to $135 including meals and campsites. Phone 4069 1722.
Thurday Island (population 4000)
Thurday Island is the main Torres Strait Islander town. The main industry is prawn and crayfish fishing.
Jumula Dubbins Hostel Phone 07 4069 2122. Book ahead.
Federal Hotel Phone 07 4069 1569. Single and double rooms.
Jardine Motel Corner Normanby Street and Victoria Parade. Phone
07 4069 2555. Single $130, double $160. 37 units, pool, laundry.
TO GO NEXT
Travel south all the way along the Great Barrier Reef through Townsville to Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane the state capital and the Gold Coast surfing beach party mecca.
From Cairns head west through the lush green Atherton tablelands visiting the Undara Lava Tubes and remote Gulf Country on the way to Darwin in the Northern Territory. Note the roads are poor and impassable after rain.