Last year, I was doing a small tour of Australia with some friends. Cairns was the 3rd stop on my list, so I hopped on a plane from Brisbane and headed straight there. Arriving there felt like I just landed in Hawaii. The city is small and resembles a surfer town, but with an unusable beach. The reason the beach is unusable is because of the “Salties” (salt water alligators). They do have a beautiful water pool area where many tourists and locals flock to.
There are many hotels to choose from, but I’d like to suggest the Hilton or Shangri La. They’re both near the boardwalk and have beautiful views of the coastline. Through the hotel’s concierge, you can book tours to see the Great Barrier Reef. If you would like to see the reef, you will need to take a bus up to Port Douglas for about 90 minutes. The most popular and robust tour is the one offered by Quicksilver tours. The average package price is about $200 per person which includes lunch, transportation, and snorkel gear.
From Port Douglas, you will board a high speed boat that will take you out to their catamaran sitting on the barrier reef. They have on board marine biologists to take you on special tours, an underwater submarine, scuba gear, and even a heliport. If possible, try and pack your own lunch in case you are unhappy with the one they provide. Also, please do not forget sun block and sun glasses. The sun is very strong out there and you must protect yourself from serious burns. By the end of the day, you will surely know if you put on enough sun block.
Cairns also has a casino located across from the Hilton hotel. It’s not as grand as the one in Brisbane, but it does have a miniature zoo in the dome located on the top floor. The town is prone to flooding because it’s below sea level, so make sure you do a little research before heading over there on what time of year is the best. Attached to the rail station Cairns Central, is the local mall. It’s about 3 NYC blocks wide and has a huge variety of stores. If you weren’t paying attention to the store and brand names, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an this mall and one in the U.S.
Although time prevented me from doing the rain forest tour, I would suggest for you not to miss it. Also, if you’re an avid fisherman, don’t miss out on some early morning charter boats to catch the local sturgeon. When all the tours, fishing, and hiking are done, take a stroll through the town and take in the hippie culture.
I didn’t meet one unfriendly Australian my entire trip. If you have the opportunity to travel to this country, to hesitate to grab at the chance. I guarantee it will be an experience you will never forget. Good Luck and Happy Travels!