It’s completely and utterly surreal that we have already reached the final stop on our East Coast trip. We knew it would go by quickly.. but not quite this fast. We had to get to Cairns in time for Bradie and Gabby’s departure, meaning we had a full week in Cairns before our flight to Bali. During this time, we tried to make the most of all the north of Aus has to offer! We stayed at Calypso hostel, which was pretty nice and offered free gym passes every day, it wasn’t in the town centre but they also offered free buses every hour into town. The main party hostel in Cairns is Gilligan’s, which as well as being a hostel is literally a huge club. If you’re there only a few days it may be worth looking into, as it’s cheap and the club is $10 entry for those outside the hostel.
The main activity to do from Cairns is of course - the Great Barrier Reef. We each had a scuba dive booked in, and so the evening before, we huddled into Fran The Van and watched David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef documentary to really get us in the mood. We woke early at 6.45am ready to be at the pier for 7, only to see torrential rain outside! Nightmare! And somehow its 30 degrees in the UK!? We were glad to be reassured that, rain or shine, once you’re underwater it makes zero difference to the visibility or presence of sea wildlife. Charlotte had previously completed her PADI diving course, so knew what she was doing, whereas I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The dive instructors were amazing, and despite my initial panic as I ducked 2m under the boat, they reassured me and soon enough I was 8m down! Once you are actually beneath sea level, and breathing steadily, it is bizarrely relaxing. We both managed to spot a shark, a huge barracuda, and lots of tropical fish. Shark sounds terrifying right!? But they actually aren’t as dangerous predators as you may think. The shark swam past us totally unbothered, and weirdly neither were we, despite it being around 2m long. We both agreed that the barracuda was scarier, as it swam above us and looked almost dinosaur-esque.
The boat trip lasted all day, after the dive we stopped for lunch which exceeded expectations. We had a buffet of fresh prawns, smoked salmon, cured meats, marinated chicken, baguette, salads, and free tea and coffee! After lunch the weather started to clear up and the rain stopped. In the afternoon we moved spots to another part of the reef, and went snorkelling. This was almost as incredible as the dive, because we were lucky enough to spot two sea turtles, another shark (this one was only a baby) and a stingray! Even the guides agreed we had been so fortunate to see all these animals in one day. Even the different types of coral themselves were fascinating, all different shapes and colours. On the boat back, the crew offered round cheese and crackers, and then tea and cakes. Safe to say we really got our money’s worth.
Cairns town itself isn’t known for it’s beaches, in fact the beach is pretty much entirely made of mud… But we did do some exploring to the beaches north of Cairns. Palm Cove is 30 mins north and Kewarra Beach only 20 minutes. Kewarra was amazing as it had palm trees growing all across the back, and it was so peaceful.
Another great day exploring from Cairns are the waterfalls. If you drive about 1.5 hours south past Atherton, (the roads are ridiculously windy be warned), you can visit Millaa Millaa Falls. On this road you can also stop at Cathedral Fig Tree, a tree which historical studies say dates back to 500 years ago. Also on the way is Lake Barrine and Lake Eucha, where there is a cute little cafe serving tea and fresh scones with their homemade jam.
We were super excited for the Millaa Millaa waterfall, as not only is it the exact one from the Herbal Essences TV commercial, it is also where Peter Andre filmed his music video for Mysterious Girl, and we could see why! It was insane.
After Millaa Millaa we drove another hour to Josephine Falls, which was equally as spectacular, but totally different. The water cascades from less of a height, but along huge boulders, which you can also climb up and slide down from. My inner child was totally let loose as I slid to the bottom. On the road back to Cairns you can also stop at Babinda to do the Boulders walk. It’s a nice short walk and a good way to end the day exploring. All in all, the day took us around 6 hours to complete.
On our last evening as a 4 in Cairns, we decided to stretch the budgets and go out for a farewell meal to Khin Khao, a relaxed Thai restaurant where you can bring your own alcohol for $3 per person. This was ideal considering our tight budgets at this point! We had a lovely supper and afterwards wandered to the Cairns Night Markets, which are open from around 5pm and don’t close until 11pm. They are quite fun, lots of cheap stalls, eateries, and even massage stands. A good way to spend an evening in Cairns. We didn’t get a chance to visit, but heard really good things about ‘Prawn Star’ - a boat down by The Esplanade serving cheap and extremely fresh seafood.