Because Queenslanders don’t pronounce the R.
I have to admit that our first impression of Cairns was not the best one.
Of course, there are beautiful bays, palm trees, warmth and lots of green parks. But it is as touristy as it can be. After sugarcane farming, tourism is one of the main industries in Queensland. We have never seen as many travel agencies as in Cairns, where every street has several ones. It felt like stepping into Canary Islands or Costa del Sol. A fun place for a holiday, but not much more than that. No culture or history to share.
Sounds harsh, but the few museums are just somewhere in the sidelines. Otherwise there is a lot of aggressive advertisement for every other kind of activity in the city. The main museum of Cairns is currently closed, but hopefully comes back stronger and louder than ever!
Also most restaurants were uninviting and expensive, and we struggled to find affordable food to eat. The first night we ate Thai food at a night market, and managed to get away with just paying 10 dollars, since we were there during closing time and all food was discounted.
For the rest of the nights we were lucky enough to get a 9 dollar meal deal vouchers, and happily ate honest Irish pub food thrice in a row. Talking to locals might just get you surprising benefits.
The night market offers other things than food. There is a hall full of little stalls, all selling jewellery, decorations, soaps and tourist t-shirts. On one alley there were a bunch of people trying to lure you into a 15 dollars massage, which we found weirdly amusing for some reason. The place was packed both times we walked through and it started to cause anxiety after spending too much time there. The night market is not for me, but fun there is something open till late night.
For such a beachy-looking town Cairns does not really have a beach. A walking promenade goes along the coast line, but that beach is not considered safe enough, since crocodiles have been spotted on that area. During warmer months stinger rays and jelly fish cause a big problem to the swimmers as well. Travellers really need to take safety seriously and ask around from locals if the beach in your sight is safe. Just a few days ago a woman was killed by a crocodile north from Cairns, so it is no joke.
Instead of swimming beaches in Cairns they have the Esplanade Lagoon, which was the best part of Cairns for us as well. It is a free public pool in the middle of the city, with a small strip of white beach and surrounded by green parks and free to use outdoor barbeques. The pool is not deep, but the area is beautifully constructed and open till late, so we were happy to enjoy a swim there one night. When we arrived, there was a water fitness class going on, for everyone to take part in. It is a wonderful service especially for the locals.
Overall the whole city is really clean and all the parks are well-maintained. There are a lot recreational facilities for people to use, like the outdoor kitchens, beach volley fields, skating parks and playgrounds for kids. No wonder we saw a lot of backpackers camping in their caravans and just using the parks to cook and have a shower in the free facilities around the city.
If you have a lot of money in your pockets, Cairns is a great place for variety of activities and you can certainly keep yourself busy with having fun in all kinds of ways and places. Other than that, the city is nice but not very exciting. But we happen to thrive in the urban, vibrant cities that are packed with culture and good food. For us Cairns is good for what it was; a place to have a fun holiday after visiting the northern territories bush, before moving on to new adventures.
One challenge in Cairns was in fact trying to figure out what do after it. We had made a rough itinerary of how we would travel the east coast, but had nothing booked or confirmed. So every night we would do some research, but still on our last night In Cairns we still did not have a place to go the next day.
We decided to skip one planned location and head straight to the next one, which was Magnetic Island. We wanted to have enough time there to do all the activities and also just have a few beach days to relax after hectic Cairns. At midnight we had everything booked, which left less than 6 hours to sleep before we had to wake up and catch the Greyhound bus. I guess that is what backpacking is and depends who you ask it is the most stressful part or the best part of travelling.
For Matte it is more the first option and to me the latter, which has worked surprisingly well. It also depends on the day, since some days the stress of the unknown takes over myself as well and then Matte could be the one to just say “f it, we will figure it out later, don’t worry”.
From now on we will try to plan at least a few days ahead, whenever it is possible. At the same time we will try to leave some leeway for surprising opportunities that might come our way.