On the 13th April I took the plane from Sydney to Cairns. Within three hours I found myself in the tropics. The wall, against which you will definitely walk as soon as you jump out of the plane will quickly disappear when you look around and realise that you are surrounded by the stunning landscape of Cairns: green mountains, tropical forests and wide roads framed within crystal clear blue water. I had two days in Cairns before my nightbus to Airlie Beach left. So, what should you do in Cairns?
Day 1: Off to the Great Barrier Reef
Before going on my Eastcoast trip I booked all daytrips via Backpacker World Travel, which is a travel agency I can highly recommend! You will find this travel agency in almost every big (and small) tourist destination throughout Australia. It is not only the loud music, which will attract your attention but also the great service and extremely low prices, which will make every backpacker pretty happy! Also, they do not mind if you want to leave your backpack there, whenever you have some accommodation problems…
My first day in Cairns was a day on the Great Barrier Reef on ‘Ocean Freedom’. I had to be at the Reef Fleet Terminal in Cairns at 7.15 in the morning. Simply walk into the Terminal, check in and get your boarding pass to jump on the boat. The ‘Ocean Freedom’ is supposed to be the best boat in the Great Barrier Reef, offering the best trip. Well, what can I say? I guess it is true J
As soon as you enter the boat you will get coffee, cake and fruits served with some security documents, which need to be filled out. Together with the crew, a bunch of international divers, backpackers and other water-lovers, you will go through some medical advices and potential health checks and off you go.
It takes about 45 minutes to get from the harbour in Cairns to the first snorkelling spot in the Great Barrier Reef. On the way we got informed about our first introductory dive. Since I was in group 2, I could directly put on the unbelievably sexy Stinger suit, which protected me against the burning feeling of stinger fishes in the water. I simply had to sit on a bench and the crew put on the oxygen bottle, gave me my mask and fins and helped me making my way to the water. Five minutes later I found myself in the water, hand in hand (you HAVE to do it) with my diving instructor Jonny I went 6 meter down the ocean. Ok, ok. I know, 6 meter is nothing big but it is enough for me to have the feeling of complete freedom and floating independence. Also, it let me pass massive turtels and nemo fishes. It also improved my ultimate skills in diving language. I floated through the Great Barrier Reef for 30 minute and people, we are not talking about any reef, we are talking about the GREAT barrier reef. That is a big difference! Thanks to my swimming west I was up the water surface within seconds and put the diving licence straight on my to do list. See, when this is gonna happen…
We stayed at the first spot for like 2 hours: enough time to sunbath on the deck while looking around the crystal clear water covering the Great Barrier Reef.
And soon we went off to the second spot, which was further away and definitely as amazing as the other one in the Opolu Reef. As soon as I jumped into the water I became part of massive groups of fishes, followed nemo fishes and passed some stunning corals. We also had the chance to jump on a glass bottom boat, which took us out into the reef and gave us another perspective on corals and friends.
And soon it was time for lunch, oh yea, my highlight. Prawns, salmon and chicken together with beer for 3AU$ helped me to quickly forget about my new sunburn. Soo good…
On the way back to the harbour we got further spoiled with cheese, crackers and cake. Completely burned (I should have put on sunscreen), stuffed and stoked from diving we all arrived happily in the harbour. The crew did not only gave us personal diving certificates but further good-byed everyone in a personal way. My day on the Great Barrier Reef, surrounded by crystal blue ocean water, massive reef landscapes and under the blue sky came to an end.
Ocean Freedom – more than amazing!
Cairns was, apart from my first diving experience, also my first Couchsurfing experience on the Eastcoast. My host, a German girl, who decided for a life in Australia (I wish I could do the same…) was definitely more than ‘just a couch’. On the evening of my diving trip she invited three other German backpackers and provided us with an amazing Aussie BBQ. This is the way to go, I guess…
Day 2: Discovering the mountains of Cairns
The morning of day 2 started with an amazing breakfast in German atmosphere. We then went up the mountains of Cairns to visit the hippie village Kuranda. On a 15-km-long way around the rainforest you will encounter some stunning lookouts. Worth a stop!
Kuranda is a little chilled out village with little hippie stalls, hidden cafés and even a little German restaurant, which succeeds in stuffing Asian stomachs with sausages and Sauerkraut.
Leaving Kuranda behind, we went to Barron Falls, waterfalls in the middle of the rainforest. Especially after heavy rains these waterfalls will shock you to the max.
In the afternoon we went down to Crystal Cascades. Again, surrounded by rainforest scenery these Cascades will make you jump into the cold water just because you will be absolutely stunned by the landscape around you.
Well, yes, we also checked out Cairns’ nightlife before I hopped on the bus to Airlie Beach. I believe that it is especially the Great Barrier Reef and the amazing scenery surrounding Cairns which transforms this city into a real tourism hub for people starting or ending their Australia trip. However, you definitely find the typical backpacker bars, such as Gilligans, Woolshed or other funny etablissements…
Cairns is more than worth a visit or two! Especially if you are freezing down South in Melbourne or Sydney, a trip to Cairns will definitely provide you with some sunshine and humid climate letting you feel like being back in Asia.