What to do in Cairns?

Cairns is a lovely city in the north of Queensland. I would like to share to you my travel story in Cairns. This is a second part of my Australian story. Please also visit here to read about my travel experience in Sydney.

Cairns, Queensland
Cairns, Queensland

Look at that picturesque shot of Cairns! Yes Cairns is so beautiful. It has a lovely sea with mountainous setting. Although beach in central Cairns is not so sandy, you can always go a little bit north of the City to see various beaches like: Trinity beach, Palm Cove beach or Yorkey’s Knob beach.

Here are my tips of what to do in Cairns:

1. Walk Around Cairns City Centre / Esplanade

There are a lot of shops around the city centre with various bars and restaurants. The view from the restaurants/bars along Esplanade is fantastic as they are just off the sea. Cairns has a tropical warmly weather. So even in winter you rarely feel cold. I was there in August and even the wind was not chilled at all. I am so in love with Cairns because of its tropical weather. The beer below is from Bavarian Beerhouse in Cairns. They sell German beers and food.

Bavarian Beerhouse
Bavarian Beerhouse

What I also love about Cairns is that you will see various type of birds. You can count for at least seven different types of bird. You can also see a colony of bats at night. Amazing!

Not far from the esplanade, if you walk early in the morning, you may see a group of Pelicans doing sunbathing.

Sighting of pelicans in Cairns
Sighting of pelicans in Cairns
Sighting of Pelicans Australia
Pelicans in Cairns! They were there in the morning!

Walk along the esplanade and you will arrive at the marina. Here is usually the place for you if you are taking a ferry or a boat tour to see the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns Marina
Cairns Marina

Sometimes you will see some events going on in Esplanade area. On one day, I saw a Cairns Carnival. There are bazaar with stalls and you can see a parade on the street. The whole city is also lit up in the night.

Cairns Carnival
Cairns Carnival

2. Visit Beautiful Sandy Beaches

We had about five nights in Cairns. And we manage to visit only one beach in the north of Cairns. It is the Trinity Beach. It only takes you about 20 minutes driving from central Cairns into Trinity beach.

Trinity Beach, Queensland
Trinity Beach, Queensland

Very lovely clean and quiet sandy beach. Although the water temperature was a little bit cold as it was in winter, it won’t spoil your day to enjoy the beach. Walk along the beach line or just lay down on the sand is the best thing. My husband managed to rent a chair and umbrella, so you can also sit and relax on the beach.

Trinity Beach Cairns
Beautiful tropical Trinity beach

You can feel the warm tropical weather of Queensland. There are also coconut trees! If you are hungry, there are few restaurants nearby. We try one Italian restaurant, I forget the name of the restaurant, the food are delicious!

Restaurant with a view at Trinity Beach
Restaurant with a view at Trinity Beach
Calamari by Trinity Beach
Calamari by Trinity Beach

The calamari is so fresh and the dressing sauce is perfect! My husband said the bruschetta and the red wine are also taste super! I wish I could have longer time to visit other beach such as Palm Cove or Yorkeys Knob.

3. Visit Mareeba and Atherton 

Do you want to see the real Queenslander town? Visit Mareeba and Atherton! One hour drive from Cairns is a town of Mareeba. It is mainly a farm town. We saw quite plenty of farm by the road. We managed to visit a basil farm where my sister is currently working.

Basil Farm in Mareeba
Basil Farm in Mareeba

You can have the real countryside feeling in Mareeba. My husband warns me about dangerous Australian snakes and spiders. Fortunately we did not see any through our travel in Australia. Though my sister saw one snake in her farm and her supervisor also told us that only last week a taipan snake just killed a bull! Oh dear!

Farm in Mareeba Queensland
Countryside living in Mareeba Queensland

We also went to Skybury Coffee place where we can sit down and see panoramic view of Coffee plantation.

Skybury Coffee Mareeba
Skybury Coffee Mareeba

You can enjoy the local Australian Skybury coffee. The view from the cafe is fantastic!

We also visit Atherton, about 20 minutes drive from Mareeba. It is a unique town. I think it made you feel like you are in Texas or somewhere.. We went to a pokies to have a drink as they have a bar inside the pokies. I am wondering why they called it pokies? It is more like a game or betting shop, with a lot of game machines inside. At first I thought it is called ‘bookies’ like to say a betting shop in England, but no, it is called ‘pokies’.

Atherton Pokies
A sign outside a pokies

4. Go antiquing

Byrnes Street Antiques in Mareeba
Byrnes Street Antiques in Mareeba

In Mareeba, we visited one antique shop in Byrnes Street. I love the shop! You can find a lot of things there! I bought an old Australian gold pendant which I believe might be Victorian or Edwardian because it has the three Australian gold hallmark. Please see the pendant here.

Antiques etc in Mareeba
Antiques etc in Mareeba

My husband loves the collection of enamel spoons at the shop. You can find antique silver and jewellery too. It also has a collection of ceramics. You can also find vintage items here.

Antiques etc in Mareeba, Queensland
Antiques etc in Mareeba, Queensland

When in Atherton, we did not visit any antique shop, but there is at least one antique shop in Atherton – my husband says he saw one when we drove by. Well, in Cairns, unfortunately we did not find any antique shop. We did try to find one in Sheridan Street, when we google it, it says there is one called Kinsella’s Antiques. But sadly, it closed down. Kinsella’s Antiques is not there anymore. However, we did find a vintage shop in Sheridan Street. It is called Crackerbox Palace.

Crackerbox Palace in Cairns
Crackerbox Palace in Cairns
Vintage Shop Cairns
Vintage Shop: Crackerbox Palace in Cairns

It has vintage magazine and poster. It also sells vintage clothes and jewellery. You can also find furniture and lamps.

Crackerbox Palace Cairns
Inside Crackerbox Palace

5. Take a Ferry to Fitzroy Island

Only half an hour ferry ride from Cairns, there is a beautiful island called Fitzroy Island. We took a ferry to Fitzroy Island and also book a glass bottom boat tour from Raging Thunder.

Ferry to Fitzroy Island by Raging Thunder
Ferry to Fitzroy Island by Raging Thunder
On the Ferry to Fitzroy Island
On the Ferry to Fitzroy Island

The island is beautiful! Love the blue degradation colour of the sea. It’s crystal clear! The beaches are also beautiful. You can do snorkelling as well.

Fitzroy Island beach
Fitzroy Island beach

There is also a fantastic beach called Nudey beach. It is so pretty and panoramic. Loved it a lot! It is a coral beach though, so the sands has corals on it. I tried to wear sandals but the sandals are just washed away by the water. It was in August so the water temperature is slightly cold.

Nudey Beach Fitzroy Island
Nudey Beach at Fitzroy Island: very scenic mountainous view
Nudey Beach at Fitzroy Island
Nudey Beach at Fitzroy Island

We did a glass bottom boat tour, but my husband told me it is a waste of time.. Hahaha because we can’t really see the corals.

Glass bottom boat tour
Glass bottom boat tour
Raging Thunder Glass Bottom Boat Tour
Raging Thunder Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Literally the glasses are unclear.. Almost can’t see anything through it.

Glass bottom boat
Glass bottom boat
Glass bottom boat Fitzroy Island
Can you spot something?

I do however love it because the guide pointed out to see a big turtle! Yes I saw a huge turtle on the sea surface, so I was very pleased.

Fitzroy Island Great Barrier Reef
The reef are… Are they dead corals?

The reef I believe are part of the Great Barrier Reef. But I can’t see colourful corals. The guide told us it needs a special light to see the colour.

Fitzroy Island Reef tour
Fitzroy Island Reef tour
Fitzroy Island from the glass bottom boat
View from the glass bottom boat

The Island also has a bar. I have a nice orange juice with a view! The only thing I did not like is the attitude of a staff at a hotel there. Because we were not staying in the hotel, we literally can’t sit on the beach in front of the hotel. The staff (she) said that there is a wedding going on at the hotel. And I was like.. so? Because my ugly face on the beach will shut the view? I think that what she was thinking. Shame Fitzroy Island Resot Hotel, you got a bad review here on my website!

Orange juice with a view
Orange juice with a view

Despite of my bad experience with a Fitzroy Hotel staff, I do enjoy my time at the beautiful Fitzroy Island! It is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever visited!

Tropical Fitzroy Island
Tropical Fitzroy Island

6. Enjoy Cairns Culinary

Where do I find seafood? Well, there is a night market near the Esplanade where you can get (Chinese?) seafood.

Seafood from the night market in Cairns
Seafood from the night market in Cairns

We also visited an Italian restaurant called Bellocale. It is located at 62C Shields St. Delicious food! I had a tuna sashimi salad.

Tuna sashimi salad
Tuna sashimi salad from Bellocale

The Bavarian Beerhouse in the Esplanade also sells seafood. I have a yummy calamari.

Calamari from Bavarian Beerhouse
Calamari from Bavarian Beerhouse

Not far from the Esplanade, there is a nice Indonesian cafe called Bagus Cafe. We went there almost everyday to get our breakfast.

Sate Ayam or Chicken Satay from Bagus Cafe
Chicken Satay and Beef Rendang from Bagus Cafe
Nasi Goreng from Bagus Cafe
Nasi Goreng from Bagus Cafe

I also have an Es Campur: a mixture of jack fruit, coconut, grass jelly, and sweet syrup with blended ice. So yummy.

Delicious Es Campur and Ice Coffee
Delicious Ice Coffee and Es Campur
Ayam Goreng or Fried Chicken (Indonesian Style) from Bagus Cafe
Ayam Goreng or Fried Chicken (Indonesian Style) from Bagus Cafe

Don’t forget also to visit the Orchid Plaza. The food is mostly Oriental/South East Asian, but the prices are so reasonable.

Vietnamese Pho at Orchid Plaza
Vietnamese Pho at Orchid Plaza
Nasi Goreng Orchid Plaza Cairns
Malaysian style of Nasi Goreng at Orchid Plaza in Cairns

7. Enjoy Cairns Hospitality

We stayed at Sunshine Tower Hotels in Sheridan Street, Cairns. It is a super modern hotel. New and sleek. We have a standard double bed room. The room is quite spacious with sofa too.

Sunshine Tower Hotel
Sunshine Tower Hotel

The hotel also has a spacious shower room. Is it typical not to have a bath here in Cairns? Or do most hotels in Australia does not have a bath? Oh yes, Sunshine Tower Hotel is like an apartment service. So the hotel will change your towel, linen and clean your room if you are staying for minimum six nights. We did stay for five nights and we asked the lovely lady at the reception if we can have our room clean for once. And we were very pleased that she agreed to our request.

Sunshine Tower Cairns
Sunshine Tower Cairns

The very best part about our room is the view from the window. We love the big glass windows and especially the mountainous view of Cairns. If you are in Cairns, I recommend Sunshine Tower Hotel. First, the price is reasonable compares to all other hotels. Second, the hotel is strategically located in the main road. Yes you need to walk about 10-15 minutes to Esplanade or City Centre, but it is a pleasant walk in this tropical city.

Room with a view Sunshine Tower Hotel
Our room with a view at Sunshine Tower Hotel

Oh what a beautiful city Cairns is. Sad when I have to leave Cairns. I will definitely miss the warm tropical weather.

Jetstar from Cairns to Sydney
Jetstar to take us back to Sydney before our flight back to London

My husband tried the local Skybury coffee shop at the Cairns Airport and the croissants look amazingly big and stuffed!

Australian croissant?
Australian croissant?

I hope the tips are useful and helpful. Leave me any comments if you like! Don’t forget to also visit my tips in Sydney here.

2 thoughts on “What to do in Cairns?

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