A few days in Cairns

Spending 3 days in Cairns

Having spent New Year in Sydney, I’d travelled north to Queensland to met a friend, spending time in Airlie Beach to explore the Whitsunday Islands then hopping on the Greyhound to Townsville. After a few days exploring Townsville, including a visit to the nearby Magnetic Island, we were back on the Greyhound, travelling north again, this time to the city of Cairns.

About to leave Townsville for Cairns, and below, on the way to Green Island.

After a few nights in a hotel in Townsville, we were back to hostels in Cairns, staying in a private en suite room at the Cairns Central YHA. The hostel was located opposite a shopping mall and just a short walk from the seafront so we spent the afternoon familiarising ourselves with the city, wandering down to the seafront, past the famous Cairns lagoon and shopping.

Above and below, arriving on Green Island

The next day was going to be our last day together on the trip as my friend was flying back to the UK and I would be continuing my trip, travelling south back to Sydney alone before flying to New Zealand to begin a tour of its North Island. We wanted to do something fun for the last day and had decided on a morning trip to Green Island for a spot of snorkelling followed by an afternoon at Cairns Aqua Park to tackle its giant inflatable obstacle course.

So the next morning, we were up early to walk down to the marina and catch a boat over to Green Island. We had caught the early crossing to give us plenty of snorkelling time on the island but were disappointed to find that the snorkel hire hut didn’t open to coincide with the boat’s arrivals meaning we had to waste the first 45 minutes hanging around waiting for the shutters to go up!

It was worth the wait though as once we’d hired our snorkel gear and stinger suits, we made our way to a small cove where we’d bee told we’d have a good chance of seeing turtles and within seconds of starting to snorkel, a turtle did indeed appear!

Above, spotting turtle, and below, enjoying Green Island.

We’d been hoping to see one all trip but on all our snorkeling or kayaking adventures so far had let disappointed so we were ecstatic to finally get the chance to swim along side one on our final day!

After the excitement of seeing the turtle, we spent a bit longer snorkelling in that area before making our way to a more popular beach for a bit more swimming and sunbathing before catching an early afternoon boat back across to Cairns.

After briefly going back to the hostel for a quick change and lunch, we caught a taxi to Cairns Aqua Park, just outside of the city.

At Cairns Aqua Park

The park offers awake-boarding pool with artificial waves along with an inflatable obstacle course in a large lake. After grabbing life-jackets and listening to a safety talk – during which we checked there were no crocs in the area! – we were left to attempt the obstacles ourselves, a task a lot more difficult than it looked!!

The obstacle course was a lot of fun but way more tiring than we expected. Once our time slot was up, we got a taxi back to the YHA and after freshening up, walked back into town to find somewhere to eat out for our last evening together.

First stop on the Atherton Tablelands Tour

With my friend catching an very early flight out of Cairns the next day, I awoke alone in our hostel room. Upon arriving at the hostel a few days earlier, I had made use of their in-house booking services to arrange an Atherton Tablelands small-group excursion for my day alone in Cairns so after a pancake breakfast, I waited outside for the minibus to turn up.

I always worry on these tours that I’ll be the only solo traveller but with the company aiming itself at backpackers, there were plenty of us and we had a great day all hanging out together.

Lake Barrine

The tour took us out to the rainforest where we took a short walk to see the famous Cathedral Fig Tree. This was followed by a quick photo stop at Lake Barrine before we drove out to Crater Lake.

Here, we had the chance to take a walk along the lakeside trail and take a swim in the lake before a buffet lunch.

Beautiful Crater Lake and, below, at Milla Milla Falls

After lunch we drove to Milla Milla Falls, the waterfall famous from the Peter Andre music video, where we spent some time swimming out to the waterfall and sunbathing on the shore before our penultimate stop at Dinner Falls. The last stop of the day was at the tour company’s hostel accommodation for it’s 2 and 3-day tours where we were provided with afternoon tea before heading back to Cairns.

Back at the hostel, I began packing for the next leg of my trip only for my suitcase to break.

At Dinner Falls, and below, spending the morning at Cairns Lagoon

I had passed the Cairn’s night market a few days before so decided to take a walk down in hope I could pick up a cheap case to tide me over for the rest of the trip. The busy market was definitely worth a look around with arrange of stalls selling a variety of souvenirs and other items. I found what I was looking for and dragged the case back to the hostel, stopping off to grab a pizza for dinner on the way back.

The next day, would be my final day in Cairns. I spent the morning down at Cairns Lagoon, an experience way more positive than my experience at Airlie Lagoon. The site was a lot more attractively laid out than Airlie’s lagoon, the water seemed cleaner and its temperature was a lot better.

That afternoon I had booked a white water rafting session with Raging Thunder Adventure Company out at Barron River.

Above, off to white water raft, and below, rafting on Barron River

I was picked up in a minibus along with other groups from the hostel and taken out to the company’s headquarters where we were given a safety briefing, given our safety equipment and put into groups of 6 for our rafts. As many of those taking part that afternoon had come as part of escorted tour groups like Contiki, as one of the few solo travellers, I was added to a group of five to make up the numbers.

Despite not knowing anyone else in my tour group, I had an amazing time rafting down the river. I had rafted once before, in Wyoming on my Trek America tour, and loved it then but this was way more intense and exciting with us even being asked at one point to leave the boat and body-raft through some white water.

Exhausted, I returned to the hostel that evening for a quiet night in ready to begin a new solo travel adventure early the next day.

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