Cairns for Backpackers

Far North Queensland is a haven for sun seeking, adrenaline junkie backpackers. And your first port of call for this adventure holiday is the city of Cairns, just a two-hour flight north of Brisbane. From here you can boat out to the reefs and tropical islands, get back to nature at the Daintree Rainforest, enjoy the thrills of white water rafting or indulge in the lively backpacker nightlife.

Dive In

One of the major drawcards of a Queensland holiday is the stunning natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Everyone wants one of those picture-perfect postcard experiences mingling with multi-coloured fish in crystal clear waters and that's exactly what you'll get off the coast of Cairns.

There are a number of ways to experience this underwater wonderland depending on your swimming abilities. First-time snorkelers will feel secure in the hands of an expert guide, while experienced scuba divers with an Open Water Dive Certificate can branch out to more remote dive sites. Prices vary depending on the length of the trip but a day trip will set you back around $100-$150 for snorkelling and $140-$200 for scuba trips (including dive tuition and certificate).

If you're not keen on getting your head wet there are other options to see the reef and all of its abundant plant and animal life. Glass bottom boats are a great alternative if you're not a strong swimmer; you'll still get to see plenty of underwater action – fish, coral, turtles, manta rays and more – and you won't have to worry about drying out at the end of the day. Seawalker Helmet diving is another great alternative to scuba diving without the hassle of an induction course. The specially designed helmets allow you to breathe normally through your nose and mouth – it's like diving with an air bubble encasing your head! Most tour operators offer this equipment but make sure you ask before booking.

Swing By

Of course Cairns isn't all about the wet and wild, there's plenty to be seen on dry land too. While the Great Barrier Reef can't be beaten for amazing underwater scenes, the Daintree Rainforest rivals its aquatic counterpart with beauty amongst the treetops. Just a two-hour drive north of Cairns will find you in the lush and verdant Daintree region, which boasts a world heritage, UNESCO listed rainforest.

And what better way to see the treetops than by getting up there yourself? An absolute must-do for any visitor is canopy surfing. The flying fox zipline will have you whizzing from tree to tree like a regular Tarzan – feel free to let out a wild jungle cry or two! Tours leave throughout the day so late starters (or those nursing hangovers) will still have plenty of time for some action.

The Skyrail Rainforest Cable is another fantastic way to glimpse a bird's eye view as you glide over the treetops from the comfort of a cable car. But, if you'd rather keep your feet on the ground, there are dozens of boardwalks that criss-cross the rainforest for a closer look at ancient trees, frogs, birds and even bandicoots.

Pump It Up

If all that diving and ziplining still hasn't got your blood pumping, hop on a white water rafting tour and feel the adrenaline kick in as you surf down the rapids. Rafting experiences from 'Child's Play' to 'Xtreme' are available depending on how adventurous you're feeling. It's a wet, wild, rollicking day that will surely get you pumped up for more action because the party is just getting started when the sun goes down in Cairns.

Known for its thriving club scene, Cairns' nightlife kicks on until the early hours of the morning at bars like PJ O'Briens, Woolshed, Gilligan's and Rhino Bar. If you're feeling a little disorientated, join up with the Ultimate Party Bus crew, who'll take the hassle (and the driving) out of planning an awesome night out on the town. Not only will you meet hundreds of other partygoers, they'll also throw in free entry to all venues, a free BBQ, over $1000 of prizes and giveaways plus free pizza at the end of the night (the perfect pre-emptive hangover cure).

With all that partying you'll need somewhere to rest your weary head. Gilligan's isn't just party central, it's also a top notch backpacker resort with all the perks you'll need for a ripper Cairns experience, including a lagoon pool and waterfall, bike hire, pool tables, volleyball, a gym and free BBQs on Sundays.

Catch Some Culture

As easy as it would be to laze beside the pool all day, there are stacks of activities on offer in downtown Cairns. Check out the Lagoon and Esplanade Foreshore in the city and seek out the controversial (but wildly popular) topless tanning area, check out the markets on every Saturday or groove to one of the countless street performers playing live music.

Up the culture-factor by visiting the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, in Caravonica, just outside of Cairns. Get a taste of indigenous Australian culture, from the fascinating weapons and bush food demonstrations, to traditional dance and theatre performances. Day tours start at $35 but for a little extra turn the trip into an even more magical experience by going at night. For $99 you'll become immersed in traditional Aboriginal life through spiritual ceremonies and performances plus enjoy a four-course buffet dinner.

Pace Yourself

You'll need at least a week to pack in all Cairns has to offer and plenty of energy. The best bit about North Queensland? Once you've dived, rafted and partied yourself silly in Cairns, there are countless sundrenched beaches to lie on for another week and do absolutely nothing!

To book a tour or for further information contact us
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