Outside Tropical Queensland's capital city; Cairns, lies the worlds largest coral reef with over 2900 individual reefs and 900 islands. This magical underwater world is the only living thing that can be seen from space and is home to over 1500 different species of fish. It truly is something out of this world and if you ever get the chance to see the reef for yourself I highly recommend to take the chance, you won't be disappointed.
Both Olivia and I have spent a lot of time in Cairns and we've seen the reef from above, helicopter style and under the surface with air tanks on our backs getting so close we could touch this wonder with our own hands (but please be careful with the coral).
Green Island, The Great Barrier Reef
Even though Australia might not be the cheapest of places to travel to it is still, in our opinion, worth every penny. The Great Barrier Reef is definitely something you just have to experience for yourself.
Go on a day trip and try scuba diving for the first time, you don't even need to be certified or train yourself to an open water certificate you can actually just sign up for the day and get a feeling of scuba diving and go as deep as 9 meters. Which, as an advanced open water diver I can tell you, might not sound deep but it's definitely more then enough for your very first time.
If you try it and fall in love with scuba diving as much as we did there are heaps of different companies that offer open water courses which allow you to go down to 18 meters. If you still feel like you want to get more out of your diving there are companies that can offer you internships to become a Dive master etc.
For those of you who might think spending up to an hour underwater without ever coming to the surface is not for you, there are other ways to experience the reef. Why not go on a day trip to the outer reef with a snorkel and some fins and enjoy a great day on the boat? And for those who get a little sea sick of prefer to spend their day hanging out on the beach, taking the ferry from Cairns harbor to Fitzroy island is a great option.
Fitzroy island is truly beautiful and is only a 45 minute ferry ride from Cairns. Typically people choose to do Fitzroy Island as a day trip, the ferry departs in the morning from Cairns and takes you back in the late afternoon. It is possible to spend the night but you’ll probably have to camp as we found accommodation on the island to be extremely pricey.
Some of the ferries include snorkel gear, otherwise you can rent it on the island, along with kayaks and paddle boards. Around the island there are heaps of sea turtles and beautiful coral to look at and if you go inland you will find yourself in the middle of a rainforest. We really recommend giving the island a little bit of an explore, there are some gorgeous hidden gems including Nudey beach, one of the most serene and uncrowded beaches we’ve ever seen.
Nudey beach, Fitzroy Island
Another incredible way to experience the reef is, as I mentioned earlier, from a birds eye view; Helicopter tour. This is a bit more pricey but oh so pretty.
I actually surprised my boyfriend on his birthday with a 1 hour helicopter tour over the reef and 2 hours on our own private sand cay. It truly was an amazing experience to see the reef from above and to land on a little island in the middle of the reef just for ourselves.
We got served champagne, a plate with seafood and a massive cheese platter – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLDS LARGEST REEF! Can't stress this enough, it was an experience of a life time. I booked it all with a company called Helitours and the tour was called ”The sandy cay experience”. They really took good care of us and I can highly recommend you to book the tour with them.
Vlassof cay, Great Barrier Reef
Besides exploring the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns offers you a great nightlife and a huge backpacker scene. Many young backpackers either start or finish their east coast trip in Cairns; therefore, a lot of people are excited to meet new people or reunite with friends they met up along the coast. Cairns has lots of great pubs, bars and restaurants and there is always something going on.
Australia’s biggest party hostel is located in Cairns and it's called Gilligan's backpacker hostel. It’s often referred to as a party hostel because it has it's own huge nightclub attached and there’s never a boring night. It really is an amazing hostel where we can guarantee you'll have a great time and meet lots of new people (we can tell you first hand, we actually met at Gilligans)! If you're not much of a party person or just don't want to sleep next to a nightclub we can recommend Castaways or Calypso Inn, both have a chill atmosphere and are close enough (Castaways is a bit further out of the CBD) to still enjoy a night out in Cairns.
Further inland from Cairns you'll find a huge rainforest/jungle with loads of hidden waterfalls. We highly recommend taking a day and hiring a car with friends or booking a trip around the waterfalls. One of our personal favourites is Stoney Creek waterfall, which is a bit tricky to get to (if you don't like an off track experience in the jungle) although you can see it from the Kuranda railway. Millaa Millaa and Barron falls are also truly stunning waterfalls you'll find outside Cairns in the Tabellands region.
Stoney Creek falls, Kuranda
Stoney Creek, Kuranda
Millaa Millaa falls, Tabellands
Kuranda railway & Barron falls (very dried out this day)
There are many other notable attractions that we loved visiting around Cairns including Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge.
Cape Tribulation is in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest and is located approximately 3 hours north of Cairns. This is also where the rainforest meets the coral sea, an incredible view to say the least. Mossman Gorge is located in between Cape Tribulation and Cairns and we absolutely recommend visiting them both in the same trip.
We wouldn't make this a day trip so we suggest spending a night or two in any of the jungle hotel/hostels that Cape Tribulation has to offer, since it's quite a drive and we’re sure when you get there you want to spend some more time and not feel stressed about getting back before the sunsets. We’ve stayed in PK's Jungle Village and it was totally fine to spend the night, just make sure to bring lots of insect repellent.
Mossman Gorge, Daintree National Park
Cape Tribulation, northeast Queensland
As we said earlier both of us have spent a good amount of time in this awesome city and we hope we have convinced you to make Cairns part of your next travel plans! We both plan spending even more time here in the future to continue exploring more of what tropical Queensland has to offer.