What You Won’t Expect About Cairns

Cairns is a tropical paradiseCairns — you expect a tropical paradise complete with palm trees and sunny, warm weather. Because it is, after all, located in Far North Queensland!

You may expect plenty of fancy resorts and beaches to relax on while the days float by.

You may even expect crowds of tourists and the expensive cost of travelling to Cairns and staying there in style.

But here is what you won’t expect about Cairns…

Cairns is just a town – a big country town!

You will actually spend 90% of your time outside the town of Cairns. While there are lots of shops and accommodation, Cairns becomes a ghost town during the day. Locals are working and tourists are out on day tours, or sunning themselves on a beach up the coast.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you need much time to see Cairns, because apart from walking along the marina and foreshore (which is lovely do if you have a spare few hours), Cairns is simply not where the action is. Be sure to book on day tours or, better yet, hire a car and go exploring outside of Cairns like everyone else!

So where does everyone go if they aren’t in Cairns?

There is so much to do!

Don’t think you will just be happy to sit around all day by the pool or on the beach. You will be bombarded with the amount of choice of sights to explore and activities to do. And why not? After all, if you wanted to sit around and do nothing all day, there are definitely cheaper places to do that. Of course relaxing on holiday is usually high on everyone’s agenda, but seriously – there is so much to do!

You can explore the Daintree Rainforest, snorkel The Great Barrier Reef, visit the Sunday markets in Port Douglas, ride the train through the mountains to Kuranda, visit wineries and tea plantations in the Tablelands, experience the breathtaking views of Cape Tribulation, cruise up the river to glimpse Salt Water Crocodiles or take the family to one of the many Zoos.

The surrounding area of Cairns is so versatile – it caters for families, sporting activities, adventure junkies, honeymooners, backpackers, fishing enthusiasts and us (the everyday Australians looking for timeout in the sun from our busy lives).

Crocodiles Everywhere!

No, I’m exaggerating, the Salt water crocodiles aren’t everywhere… just everywhere where there is water! Like the beach or creeks or rivers that are salt water. You may expect crocodiles, but did you know that there are signs everywhere warning that there could be crocodiles in the water?Crocodile Sign in Cairns
A Crocodile in the Daintree RiverWhile I thought it was terribly exciting to see them in the wild, I didn’t fancy meeting one while I was swimming at the beach.

The only time we did see them was enjoying a crocodile river cruise in the Daintree Rainforest. Phew! Apparently the females are quite territorial in the rivers and creeks, and the males travel up and down the coast looking for the ladies during mating season.

Stay safe and don’t do anything the locals wouldn’t do.

Highly recommended:
Great Barrier Reef Tour.

Our view of the Great Barrier Reef from the top of our tour boat.Sometimes it comes down to the little things, like choosing a tour company to take you out on the Great Barrier Reef. You may have expected that they all offer a similar service, all cramming hundreds of tourists onto big boats, mostly all offer snorkelling, diving or both, and provide lunch.

Unless you have lots of money at your disposal to afford a private charter, the most affordable way to experience the reef is to book on a full day boat tour.

A blue Starfish in the Great Barrier ReefWhat we didn’t expect was to find a family owned company offering affordable prices for snorkelling and diving and a personal experience for all 60 people on board. We had a ball! Ocean Freedom Cruises was an unexpected gem and we couldn’t recommend them more.


Tips and Advice

  • Don’t book accommodation in Cairns. Just a 15 – 30 minute drive up the coast will land you at a beautiful beach paradise and away from the crowds, while still being close enough to travel back into the CBD and airport. Try Palm Cove, Clifton Beach or Trinity Beach. Or travel 60 minutes up the coast to Port Douglas where all the expensive, romantic resorts are!
  • When sightseeing around the Daintree Rainforest, don’t drive past Mossman George. It’s spectacular! From the information centre you can pay up to $10 for a shuttle bus, or enjoy a free 2km walk through the rainforest listening to the birds and being amongst the tropics.
  • If you are keen to spot some Salt Water Crocs in the wild, be sure to book a boat tour at low tide. That way you are far more likely to see them sunning themselves on the riverbank rather than submerged in the water under the mangroves.


Thanks for reading. Please share or like this post if you enjoyed it or found it helpful. I hope you can explore and enjoy this beautiful untamed part of Australia soon! — Mim


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