Cairns is medium-sized city located in tropical North Queensland, Australia, and is home to adrenaline-pumping activities & a laid back atmosphere. It is very well-known as a main entry point to the Great Barrier Reef and has many opportunities to explore the reef while you visit. Its tropical climate doesn’t hurt either. ;)
If you’re an adrenaline junky, Cairns is the place for you. I only spent a couple of days in Cairns but every second was filled with the most adventurous activities we could have thought of.
I visited Cairns with International Student Volunteers, an organization that specializes in sustainable international travel that involves fifty percent volunteer work, fifty percent adventure travel, & caters to college-aged students. They planned the majority of what we did while we were in Cairns, and I can tell you that they know what they’re doing. Cairns was one of my favorite destinations Down Under and is at the top of my list for my next Australian adventure.
If you visit Cairns, be sure to...
Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
This is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. Ever. It is so surreal to be surrounded by such an iconic landmark in Australian and world culture. It also brings to light the importance of environmental conservation. A large majority of the GBR is the victim of coral bleaching & destruction. Reefs are home to tons of wildlife and are imperative to our oceans’ ecosystems. Being knowledgeable before snorkeling in regards to this is key, too. We were told not to touch any portion of the reef; even a simple touch can cause breakage. We also swam without flippers because tourists can unknowingly kick coral with their fins and cause major damage. Be aware of your surroundings while snorkeling; you’ll learn a lot while keeping the reefs intact.
Visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Park
Tjapukai Aboriginal Park is a tourist attraction near Cairns that gives an understanding & appreciation for the history & culture of the aboriginal people of Australia. I won’t go into great detail of indigenous people groups and the harm caused to their cultures by imperialism, but Tjapukai will give you an idea of what it was like in Australia. The park also gives you a look at aboriginal culture, and you even get to be involved! I got to do a native dance on stage to native music – so out of my comfort zone but so cool! I also got to throw a boomerang & spear in the traditional way. Such a great place to mix education and activity.
Whitewater raft down the Tully River
This is also one of my favorite things that I did while in Australia, and is something I never thought I’d do. Crashing through waves & down rapids isn’t necessarily something I do in my spare time, but ever since this experience I’ve been itching to go again! Such an adrenaline rush. The Tully River is in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, an ecosystem full of flora and fauna that you'll get to see & explore during your whitewater adventure. Rumbling over rocks and gliding under waterfalls will get your blood pumping faster than you can imagine!
Skydive above the crystal blue water & green forests
This is something that I didn’t do while I was in Australia, because, ahem, I was ballin’ on a budget. This is a little bit more expensive than the other activities I have listed, but I wish I would have done it every time I think about my time in Cairns. Several of my friends did this during our trip and their pictures & videos are phenomenal. You won’t get a skydiving view like that at any other place I have been.
Stay in a hostel
Hostels get a bad rap from more traditional travelers & from the media, but during my time Down Under I almost always stayed in a hostel. Essentially, a hostel is similar to a college dorm. You share a room with other travelers – who you may or may not know – and typically use a community shower or restroom. Don’t freak out – I know this sounds a little intimidating but this is the best way to meet other people and save money while you travel. Hostels also typically have a cafeteria or restaurant that is affordable, and meals sometimes even come with the cost of the room. This is another great way to meet people, and again, save money. It might not be a five star hotel (or even two star) and it might be a little cramped, but it is an excellent way to travel, especially in Cairns. With that being said, a lot of people who travel in & around Cairns stay in hostels. The town in home to nomads, students taking gap years, and people trying to find themselves. Learn about the world – there are tons of cultures entering and exiting hostels, particularly in Cairns.
Go bungee jumping at AJ Hackett Cairns
If you’re still needing an adrenaline rush after you’ve been whitewater rafting, skydiving, and snorkeling, definitely check out AJ Hackett Cairns, the local bungee jumping joint. This is a more expensive option, too, but worth every penny in my opinion. Check out their website here to see prices, pictures, and videos.
Check out the bar scene on a pub crawl
The Cairns bar scene is a unique one, and the best way to see it all is through a pub crawl. There are so many different atmospheres from laid back dives to classy lounges. The pub crawl we took let us see them all, as I think most of them do. We were shuttled from bar to bar on an old school bus, and given an allotted amount of time before we all had to meet back up to head to our destination. At the end of the night we were all dropped off safely back at the hostel. Safe and fun. :)
What are your favorite travel activities? Any daring pastimes I should check out on my next adventure? I'd love to hear from you!
To read my post about adrenaline-seeking & getting out of your comfort zone, click here.
Hi, I'm Madeline
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