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City Guide: Cairns

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As a jumping off point for the Cook Islands and Barrier Reef, Cairns is a backpacker and student paradise.

CairnsCheap bars and hostels abound and the city is within easy access of the wealth of wildlife and outdoor experiences that Queensland has to offer.

Here are some top tips to make the most of your time in Cairns.

What to do

The beaches around Cairns aren't up to much but luckily the city has a free swimming lagoon, surrounded by the bars and shops of the esplanade.

The area's biggest attraction is the Great Barrier Reef, tours to which run daily from Cairns. They aren't cheap, but it's worthwhile shelling out to see one of the natural wonders of the world.

If wildlife on dry land is more your cup of tea then the Skyrail to Kuranda is a great place to visit. A treetop cable-car takes you above the rainforest canopy. Stops en route allow you to see the rainforest up close and provide stunning vistas of the forest and waterfalls.

Cairns Botanic Gardens are free and also easily accessed from the city, with a huge range of tropical plants on show. A rainforest boardwalk allows visitors to see what the ecosystem would have looked like before settlement.

Where to stay


Cairns isn't short on travellers, or for that matter hostels. If you fancy a more intimate experience, the Tropic Days backpackers' hostel is a family run business. With smaller dorms and its own pool, it's a chilled out place to stay.


For more of a party experience, Gilligans is the place to be. Young and modern, it regularly hosts top DJs and boasts, “Non-stop party, seven days a week.”

CairnsWhere to eat

You can't visit Australia without trying one of their famous meat pies and Meldrum's Pies in Paradise is a great place to do that. They're perfect for a quick lunch or a post-lash snack.

Another great place to grab a cheap bite to eat is Grill'd. It may be a chain restaurant but this gourmet Aussie burger destination is a step up from Maccies. The Big Queenslander burger is an experience not to be missed!

Cairns really is a city that has it all – the action and party-potential of an urban setting with both the reef and rainforest in easy reach. If you're heading down-under, make sure not to miss it!

Visit www.queensland.com for more information about visiting the area.

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