Not many people have heard of Cairns and after visiting we think it might just be the best tourist town Australia has to offer! While Sydney and Melbourne are hosts to their own charms they cannot compare to the beauty available in the Great Barrier Reef and rainforest surrounding this relaxed, hip town.
While there is a treasure trove of outdoor gems to explore around Cairns we were careful not to skip over the town itself. As we are both caffeine addicts the cafe scene was one we truly enjoyed. Our favorite spot became Caffiend located in an alley on Grafton St which is home to some of the most incredible street art you will see in the country. An excellent photo op and enjoyable atmosphere as this scene is quite big in Cairns. We enjoyed a similar vibe at the local restaurant The Green Ant which also served the best nachos we have ever tasted. After all of our cravings were satisfied, we headed to the famous Esplanade. This large saltwater pool is a popular destination with its sandy surroundings and art sculptures, free barbecues, playgrounds, boardwalk, and fitness areas. We even went back at night to see the lagoon all lit up! Of course we always love to make sure we visit the local market anywhere we go and Rustys did not disappoint! We found all manners of fresh produce, crafts, drinks and food to try. This is one of our favorite ways to experience local culture.
One of the main attractions for us in visiting Cairns was Australia’s largest tropical rainforest. It was just a day trip as the journey to and from is around two hours each way. As a tourist town it is easy to find and book any type of guided tour that you wish which can offer a nice level of comfort and ease especially when venturing outside of the city you are staying in. We learned so much about the biodiversity of the area and the significance it holds in this tour all while taking in the majestic beauty of the rainforest of at every level, ground floor all the way to the canopy. On our return we just had to stop at Daintree Ice Cream Company for their unique selection of sweets made from some of Australia’s most exotic fruits. While it’s possible to do it in the same day we took our time for a second day trip to Port Douglas. The journey alone was worth it as it a beautiful drive along the coast. Here we enjoyed the Four Mile Beach and even took part in some kayaking with the sea turtles, there were a plethora of activities available that allow you to connect with the surrounding nature. We ended our day with a cold pint on the marina at Hemingway’s Brewery and had a delicious beer served with an even better sunset view.
In order to experience the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea we made the decision to do it right. For us this meant an immersive excursion aboard The Spirit of Freedom. We lived on this boat for a full seven days and enjoyed every moment. The vessel itself was luxurious as far as the accommodations and food provided and it takes you to the most remote and stunning areas of the reef. The staff was friendly, and everything felt extremely safe. We were able to have encounters with whale sharks, manta rays, and many colorful fish during our dives. These world-renowned dive sites absolutely lived up to their reputations including Cod Hole, Ribbon Reef, and Osprey Reef. It was the highlight of our trip and truly an unmissable experience.
While it felt like a small departure from the idyllic tropical boat life we fell in love with we could not leave Cairns without experiencing one of the iconic waterfalls of the area. The Crystal Cascades lived up to their name. We spent the day exploring the secluded and secret space and discovered freshwater swimming holes just cold enough to beat the heat and a series of small waterfalls all flowing into larger pools. A pure day of relaxation. Not that we were able to feel much stress at all with the laid-back Australian attitude of Cairns.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world and allowed us to encounter the most unique and diverse marine life of our travels. Our experience on The Spirit of Freedom was reason enough to visit this tropical haven of Queensland but we were thrilled to discover that there are in fact so many more unmissable sites Cairns has to offer as well. If Cairns wasn’t on your travel bucket list before I sure hope it is now!