Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Lucky you - Cairns is the best possible spot to base yourself when experiencing the delights of the Great Barrier Reef! One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Reef is the largest living thing on Earth and yes – it’s visible from space. Home to endless spectacular coral and fish species, you can enjoy the Reef by snorkelling, scuba diving, helicopter tours and glass-bottomed boats. If you’re going to go, you need to do it right. Book a tour with YHA Travel and Tours to get a discounted rate with your YHA membership, and get ready to be dazzled and amazed. If you've budgetted for one big splurge in Cairns, it’s gotta be this – the enchanting beauty of the Reef is worth every cent.
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Cairns Esplanade Markets are held right in the heart of Cairns every Saturday, showcasing local jewellery, leather work, pottery, clothes and skincare. Rusty’s Markets are the pride and joy of Cairns held from Friday – Sunday, featuring 180 stalls of delicious fruit and veg, delicatessans, dairy and seafood along with scrumptious food and drink stalls to keep your energy up. Make sure you get to the crowning jewel of Cairns markets – the Night Markets, open 365 nights a year. located near the Esplanade, the Night Markets make for an electrifying open-air shopping experience – the perfect place to grab a delicious dinner, hunt for a bargain or simply wander around and take it all in.
You’ve never too old to “ooh” and “aah” at stunning sea creatures, and it’s no surprise that the aquarium closest to the Great Barrier Reef is pretty damn good. A student ticket will only set you back $34, while an adult ticket will cost you $42. Explore on your own or check out the many informative talks happening throughout the day to learn more about the unique marine life around Cairns. If you're thirsty for more, they also run behind the scenes tours that give you an inside look into all the action. If you don't get to the Reef this trip, the Cairns Aquarium provides the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with stunning marine life anyway - and there'll be protective glass between you and the sharks!
Known as “the village in the rainforest,” no trip to Cairns is complete without taking a day trip to Kuranda. If you're on a tight budget you can get the bus from Cairns, if you've got a lil' extra cash you can take the Scenic Railway for the most stunning views you could imagine. Once you arrive, you'll probably feel a little dizzy with the amount of incredible things you can see and do in this tiny village. From Riverboat Tours to quad biking, and world-famous markets to rainforest cable gliding, you're guaranteed a great time in this fairytale village. One thing not to be missed is the Kuranda Wildlife Experience, which allows you to cuddle koalas at the Kuranda Koala Gardens, visit the largest collection of free-flying birds in Australia at Birdworld Kuranda and be dazzled by Australia's largest butterfly display at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary - all for less than $50.
If you’re visiting the Reef, why not learn all about it from the professionals? Before your visit, stopping at Reef Teach to learn the ropes from qualified marine biologists is an excellent investment. For only $23 per adult, you can enjoy a unique and fun presentation on what to look for, where to find it and how to make the most of your time. They'll also share some of their inside knowledge with you, such as how to take the best underwater photograph and how to avoid getting seasick! Once you get to the Reef, you can impress everyone around you by identifying all the common coral and fish species you learnt about.
Little known fact: Cairns doesn’t actually have any beaches within the city limits – so they built one! Located at Cairns Esplanade, lazing around the Lagoon is the perfect way to spend a day, and it will cost you nothing. Pack a picnic and get in early to secure a prime spot, and spend the day escaping the heat in the Lagoon and wandering along the Esplanade to check out markets, free exercise equipment, free fitness classes and live music. This is by far one of the most popular hangouts in Cairns for tourists and locals alike – make sure you visit at least once to really get the vibe of this unique and fun-loving city.
Cairns is home to an abundance of stunning waterfalls that you can see, snap pics of and take a dip in for exactly $0. 25 minutes south of Cairns CBD you’ll find the Crystal Cascades, a quiet retreat boasting gorgeous swimming holes and cascading falls to lose yourself in. Close by, you’ll find Fairy Falls, an Instagrammable waterfall just as magical as its name. Happy to go a little further? An hour south of Cairns you’ll find Josephine Falls, featuring a stunning natural rockslide and a vast swimming hole where you can float and be at peace. Spending time at Cairns' waterfalls is a luxury retreat for absolutely nada - an absolute must-do
While there’s no beach in Cairns city limits, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump away to the Northern Beaches. Laze under the idyllic palm trees at tropical paradise Palm Cove, and wander around the gorgeous boutiques and restaurants. Any Cairns local will tell you that Trinity Beach is the place to be for a more down-to-earth and laid-back vibe. For a no-frills beach experience head to Ellis Beach, where you can even get your gear off and sun your privates if you so fancy! A beach day is the best possible way to have a great day out, no wallets required. Just remember the sunscreen!
Visiting the botanical gardens in any city is a fail-safe way to have a great time without spending any cash, but Cairns Botanic Gardens are extra special. Renowned as one of the best exhibitions of tropical plants in Australia, you can get lost in a fairytale fantasy, weaving through the gorgeous plants and learning plenty along the way. There is a huge range of gardens - all of them unique and all of them totally Instagrammable. Check out the hashtag if you don't believe us! Of course when there’s plants there’s birds, so you can get up close and personal with some gorgeous native feathered friends. A pretty good deal for $0!