When I first arrived in Cairns, I wasn’t really sure what to think. I was new to Australia and just assumed it would look like something out of Home and Away or Neighbours. Spoiler: it didn’t.
Although come to think of it, my minibus driver did remind me a bit of Alf Roberts. Does that count?
Once I’d got over the initial confusion though, I quickly realised that Cairns was a pretty great place to start my Aussie adventure. It was chilled out, tropical and in close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and loads of other cool shit.
What more could you want?
I also ended up staying at the most amazing hostel. The Travellers Oasis.
It’s 100% recommended and I’d go back there again in a second.
It was relaxed, full of friendly travellers, had comfy beds, clean rooms, a big outdoor social area, a BBQ, two kitchens and a swimming pool.
That’s right, A POOL.
It was also really close to the shopping mall and supermarket, which was a nice bonus.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to go food shopping and cook meals for myself after spending 6 months in Asia and Indonesia. I never thought I’d get teary over some cheese and a pint of milk, but hey, it was a beautiful moment.
Aside from buying cheese and milk, there’s tonnes of other things to do in Cairns, like swim at the Lagoon.
I must admit, I was a bit confused about the Lagoon at first because there’s some perfectly good sea right next to it.
Why can’t I just swim there, eh Cairns?
Well, as it turns out, it’s teeming with crocs. Real Australian man-eating crocs.
The Lagoon is located right next to a park too, which is perfect for lazy days when you just want to chill out, get a tan and recover from a Goon hangover.
Another thing you should probably get round to doing if you’re in Cairns, is take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef.
I’m so happy I ticked this beauty off my bucket list, and I booked everything with my hostel too, which made it feel really easy.
There are loads of different boat companies to choose from, but in the end I went with Passions, which I definitely recommend. The boat is big and swanky, plus there’s a wide deck at the front for tanning purposes and they give you a nice big buffet-style lunch too.
I’m a bit of a baby and have shit ear tubes, so I chose not to do the diving, but snorkelling was fine for me – and cheaper.
We stopped off at spots like Michaelmas Cay and Paradise Reef, which were filled with tropical fish for me to stalk and stare at through my goggles.
Another great place to visit in Cairns is Palm Cove.
Perfect for day trippin’, it’s about an hour away by bus from the centre of town, and you can actually swim here without being eaten.
If you’ve got more than a couple of days in Cairns, then you definitely need to hire a car and take a road trip to the Northern Territory.
It was by far my favourite road tip in Australia, mainly because it felt just that little bit more remote and the landscapes were beautiful.
I went with my new pals from Travellers Oasis, and we hired a car (with a tent on the roof) from Wicked Campers (obviously).
Our first stop was Port Douglas, a cute little seaside town where we paused for lunch and stocked up on last minute supplies.
Next, we arrived at the Daintree Rainforest.
I can’t remember the name of the exact place, but we stayed at a little camping park right in the middle of it all, which was complete with a kitchen and showers so we could make some food and freshen up before spending the night in our roof tent.
Top tip: get your booze beforehand as there’s nothing nearby
It was such a peaceful place to sleep and it was right next the white shores of Cape Tribulation, which was the ideal place to wake up to.
The last stop on our trip was Atherton Tablelands, where we planned to spend the night. On the way we passed through loads of little viewpoints and amazing waterfalls, which are all perfect places to stop and explore.
If you’re planning to stay overnight, please make sure you don’t get lost and turn up after dark. It makes putting up tents slightly more scary and difficult, trust me.
Also, take some warm clothes and a duvet because at night it is FREEZING. Honestly, I could see my own breath inside the tent despite swanning around in my playsuit in 30 degree weather all day. Crazy.
As it turns out, these Tablelands are quite high up. Who knew?
They aren’t too far from the centre of Cairns though, so by the following afternoon we’d returned our beloved car to Wicked and I was back at the hostel with only a few days left before I flew to Melbourne.
Naturally, most of this time was spent drinking Goon and dancing on tables in The Woolshed, but I also had the option of going skydiving, paddle boarding and doing loads of other water sports.
So if you’re that way inclined, go for it.
I’ll just be by the pool with a beer though.