Cairns, North Queensland Australia: home to the Great Barrier Reef

Esplanade, Cairns

Esplanade, Cairns

In the true tradition of Easter in my world I did the typical thing and went travelling.

This year with the Easter public holidays and ANZAC Day it meant for a cool 10 days off, I only had to take 5 days annual leave. This is what I call smart travel planning, especially when you value annual leave as much as I do!

Flight from Auckland to Cairns

Flight from Auckland to Cairns

Taking off from my hometown of Auckland (still bit weird saying that) I think this flight possibly has to compete for the top spot of ‘Most Scenic Flight.’ This is purely because as you start to descend into Cairns you have an absolutely fantastic view of the Great Barrier Reef and its islands. Excuse the poor iPhone photography in these ones (I hadn’t prepared myself for this view with my DSLR).

Flight over the Great Barrier Reef

Flight over the Great Barrier Reef

Flight over the Great Barrier Reef

Flight over the Great Barrier Reef

More on that in coming posts though… a few days later I took a proper scenic flight that was mind glowingly beautiful.

Cairns

Cairns Esplanade, great for a hot walk

Cairns Esplanade, great for a hot walk

Sitting at an average of around 30 degrees it’s a steamy spot of humidity, but everywhere you go there is air conditioning to save you. I spent my first 5 nights in Cairns in a slightly dodgy location near a 24 hour hospital which wasn’t pleasant walking past in the evenings, but it met my needs.

Pool at the hotel

Pool at the hotel

I branched out and went for a cheap hotel, given that private rooms in hostels are about the same prices over this side of the world now… and I can’t quite bring myself to share a room at the moment. It was 10-15mins walk from the shopping mall, waterfront esplanade and restaurants and had a lovely cold pool for hot afternoons.

There is a lagoon for swimming in also in town, which is packed throughout the day, but quiet and serene early in the morning.

Lagoon, Cairns

Lagoon, Cairns

I can’t quite get my head around places having beaches that you can’t actually swim in because of crocodiles, stingers or sharks. Cairns is a step further because of all the dredging that’s been done the harbour is more like an estuary at low tide.

Cairns Harbour

Cairns Harbour

Cairns Harbour

Cairns Harbour

Villa Romana Gnocchi

Villa Romana Gnocchi

Cairns itself doesn’t rate super high on my travel radar to be honest, but it’s still a nice visit. I’ve learnt cars don’t wait for pedestrians on green walking lights here and the restaurant service isn’t great.

It wasn’t until my last day in Cairns that two restaurants actually asked me how my meals were! Otherwise I had places attempt to overcharge me, sit me in crappy spots and some that disregarded my request for a glass of wine (even when I asked twice)… it was a very sober trip.

Coffee Club Salad

Coffee Club Salad

Top Places to Eat in Cairns (that are actually welcoming)

Breakfast

Lillipad

Lillipad Breakfast

Lillipad Breakfast

I went here twice, both times the meals were huge and super tasty. Plus they offer takeaway containers when you mouth drops and the size of the meal!

Lunch

Petit Cafe

Hawaii Crepe

Hawaii Crepe

The guys here are super friendly and welcoming, a real breath of fresh air in Cairns. Highly recommend the tasty crepes!

Dinner

Grill’d

Grill'd Burger and Sweet Potato Fries

Grill’d Burger and Sweet Potato Fries

I feel Grill’d deserved a special mention. Not only do they have great food and service, but for every item you order your given a bottle top to put in one of three jars. Each jar is representative of a charity. Its part of a community donation program called Local Matters. Each month they split $500 between the groups giving $300 to the charity with the most tokens. Such a cool idea, for more information check out https://www.grilld.com.au/about/do-good.

Checking out the Esplanade walkway, Cairns

Checking out the Esplanade walkway, Cairns

What to do in Cairns

I stayed in Cairns mainly because it was meant to be a good spot to book day trips from. It is filled with tour companies, but I ended up mainly pre-booking my trips because it was Easter and I expected it to be busy.

There is quite a bit of wandering to be done if you can handle the heat in Cairns. The Esplanade can take an easy hour or two out of your day. If you have kids, then Muddies Playground looks epic too.

Fresh Seafood in Cairns - by boat

Fresh Seafood in Cairns – by boat

Jellybabies... Cairns Contempory Art Centre

Jellybabies… Cairns Contempory Art Centre

I did have a mix bag of weather because it was the end of the wet season. Most days it rained a bit and there was one tour to the Frankland Islands that got cancelled. But otherwise I kept pretty dry.

At dusk, you can look to the skies above and see thousands of birds and bats take to the sky and do their rounds.

Cairns was a great stop to visit Upolu Reef from, as well as Kuranda and check out the reef from the sky above. So stay tuned for more posts from my time in Cairns and Port Douglas over the coming weeks!

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