Cairns is all about AJ Hackett’s 50m bungy jump. Part of the appeal of the world’s second-oldest commercial jump – after Queenstown in New Zealand – is its spectacular surroundings (think jungle, wildlife and lapping water). The idea of tying a dangling rope around your ankle might sound scary but the rush you’ll get as you fly through the air before bouncing around like a demented doll is indescribable. Trust TNT: after you’ve jumped, there’s only one thought that will be going through your mind: “I need to do that again!” However, rather than go for a repeat performance, opt for trying out the other trick up Hackett’s sleeve, the Minjin Swing. Expect to be harnessed up again, before this time being lifted 45m into the air. Hover for a few tranquil moments and then pull the release cord: in approximately three seconds, you’ll be screeching through the trees at 120km/hr before rising back beyond the canopy and down again. When finally you come to a rest, you’ll be buzzing!
However if bungy jumping really isn’t your bag, head two hours south of Cairns to Tully where you can get an adrenaline rush by white-water rafting on the Tully River which is in a world heritage listed rainforest. Most of the operators run day tours to take on the grade 3-4 rapids and cost about $150. Alternatively you could elect to spot a crowd which won’t be too much of a challenge in this part of the world: North Queensland is literally crawling with crocodiles and several operators will allow you to get up close safely. One of the best is Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures about 30 minutes north of Cairns which is a commercial crocodile farm. Not only do they have crocodile but there is also plenty of other native fauna for you to check out.You can also see crocodiles in the wild on the Daintree River with a Bruce Belcher Daintree River Cruise.
Life on the water
It would be a crime to visit Cairns and not sign up for a snorkelling or scuba diving session given Cairn’s proximity to a spot called the Great Barrier Reef. You may have heard of it. Home to 2,900 individual reefs, 1,500 species of fish, 411 hard corals and 134 species of sharks and rays, as well as whales, plants, cucumbers, and the like, it’s the common denominator for the thousands of tourists who flood the region each week.
Chances are you’ll have seen photos or a doco on television, but nothing comes close to seeing the bewildering colours which form this extraordinary wonder. There are dozens of operators in the region which run snorkelling or diving trips which will have you floating among the bright coral and even brighter fish but TNT can vouch for Passions of Paradise who promise top notch snorkelling, an eco friendly trip, compassionate and friendly guides – oh and a great lunch. Running trips out to the reef, their smooth catamarans carry passengers out to see the dizzying array of wildlife that occupies these waters. Whether you choose to snorkel or dive, the sights (school fish and turtles) are amazing – the way the coral grows and lives creates a magnificent trippy spectacle unlike anything even the lost avant garde artist could dream up.
However if all you want to do is fly and flop, then rest assured that Cairns is chock full of brilliant beaches. On your doorstep you’ve got Trinity Beach – characterised by its calm water. Alternatively for a little more luxury, push on up the coast to Palm Cove which is framed by palm trees and al fresco restaurants. Yet arguably the best beach is Mission Beach – an underrated spot, a few hours south of Cairns, that boasts kilometres of spectacular beaches happily clashing with World Heritage-listed rainforest. After a swim and a sunbathe, we recommend wandering through the lush green wonderland looking for endangered cassowaries.
Trips out of Cairns
Cairns is a brilliant base to explore North Queensland. Good day trips include Port Douglas – a pretty little town that is rightly popular with visitors. If you’re just dropping in for a day-trip make it a Sunday for the local markets and then take a wander along Four Mile Beach. There’s also a couple of decent golf courses to have hit on. Or opt for a walk in the forest because, for all the hype that the Great Barrier Reef gets, the Daintree Rainforest is also incredibly impressive. Expect to see trees thousands of years old and spiders the size of your head. Daintree Rainforest has the largest range of flora and fauna on the planet and with an array of walks you could spend days exploring it.
Alternatively take a trip to The Atherton Tablelands – a beautiful place to go for a drive. About 600-1100 metres above sea-level the area is a mixture of farmlands, forests and rivers. Mossman Gorge also rewards a visit: it’s a lovely place in which to enjoy a picnic against the backdrop of the breathtaking Daintree Rainforest. Water flows down the Mossman River over huge boulders making it a great spot for a swim – free from the crocodiles. Elsewhere for a spectacular view in the region take a ride on the Skyrail at Kuranda. It is a 7.5km cable car across tropical rainforest and is situated about 20 minutes from Cairns.
However the jewel in North Queensland’s crown is arguably Cape Tribulation. Located a couple of hours north of Cairns, it’s affectionately known as ‘Cape Trib’ and is basically the end of the road. While it is possible to head further north to Cooktown from here, you’ll need a 4WD to go beyond Cape Tribulation and go in the dry season, because the roads are often impassable in the wet. Up at Cape Tribulation you can join dive boats, though they’re expensive, go sea kayaking, do night-time jungle walks, and there’s a bat zoo.
Cairns nightlife isn’t flashy but it is fun! If you’re a pub person, you’ll be in your element as the town is chock full of pubs. The Woolshed is a rowdy affair with loads of backpacker having a good time. There’s a number of bars and restaurants which line the esplanade making it a nice spot for a drink in the afternoon. If you’re looking for something with a view head to Ba8 Lounge Bar at the Shangri-La Hotel – a trendy bar overlooking the marina. It’s close to heaps of restaurants at The Pier which is a shopping/restaurant complex under the hotel. This place is popular with all ages. The Pier Bar and Grill is a popular spot for Friday evening and Sunday sessions as it overlooks parkland and the ocean. If it’s sports you’re after The Cock and Bull is an English pub with loads of televisions. It also has great steaks at reasonable prices.
On the food front, be sure to book a table at Tamarind – a modern Asian restaurant at the Reef Casino that isn’t far off fine-dining. The Baby Baramundi (served up whole with teeth and everything) done in their special sweet tamarind sauce is to die for. Situated one block back from the Esplanade in the city-centre Perrottas at The Gallery is another popular spot – particularly for breakfast, brunch and lunch. All dining is on a huge balcony overlooking the street. Other hot spots include Adelphi Greek Taverna – an award-winning Greek restaurant that’s managed by Peter Andre’s brother (or Katie Price’s ex brother-in-law) and Ocean World. The latter is afresh seafood market on the highway that rewards a visit: it has awesome fresh seafood and supports the local fishermen. It’s not just fresh fish, though. You can order fish and chips — chose any bit of fish you want and have it cooked right there.
Then body bop until you drop at any of the pit stops along the Esplanade, aka Cairns’ main tourist street that stretches the length of the town’s coastal side. After something more civilised? Jump in a cab to the outskirts of town, where you’ll find the Tanks Arts Centre. Located within the Cairns Botanical Gardens precinct, the Tanks is a much-celebrated multi-arts centre housed in three converted Second World War naval oil-storage tanks that used to store oil until as recently as 1987.
DO SOMETHING SIMILAR
Bamba Aussie Ways
Travel freely and explore the world exactly as you have always dreamed! This Hop-On Hop-Off bus passes are a flexible and independent way to travel on different types of transport (public buses, shuttle vans, ferries, trains and planes) to exciting destinations with daily departures and the flexibility of unlimited changes to your departure dates anytime. Enjoy tons of experiences encompassing a variety of adventure, cultural, historical and natural activities. There are no tour leaders and no accommodation included. This decision is left up to you.
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Bush, Bays & BBQs
When going to the beach, one must always pack their cozzie (bathing suit), sunnies (sunglasses), thongs (sandals) and stubbies (short shorts). BYO cricket skillz.
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Dive to Adventure
Go Down Under at the world’s premiere underwater playground, the Great Barrier Reef. See the flora and fauna that call this natural wonder home for the next three days. Live aboard a ship & dive or snorkel your way around magnificent coral formations, you can participate in up to 11 dives at 16 exclusive dive sites. The value is unmatched!
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Island and rainforest
Get the most of Australia’s East Coast with this tour to explore and relax. Take in the crystal clear waters and the lush tropical settings of this magnificent island. Ride the Captain Cook Highway with rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other, it’s not your typical road trip. You’ll make friends for life as you explore Down Under with this Contiki Australia travel package.
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Full Koala Ways
Travel freely and explore the world exactly as you have always dreamed! This Hop-On Hop-Off bus passes are a flexible and independent way to travel on different types of transport (public buses, shuttle vans, ferries, trains and planes) to exciting destinations with daily departures and the flexibility of unlimited changes to your departure dates anytime. Enjoy tons of experiences encompassing a variety of adventure, cultural, historical and natural activities. There are no tour leaders and no accommodation included. This decision is up to you.
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Snorkel to Adventure
Escape into the big blue beyond. Go Down Under at the world’s premiere underwater playground, the Great Barrier Reef. See the flora and fauna that call this natural wonder home, which is exactly what you’ll do for the next three days as you snorkel your way around magnificent coral formations before returning to dry land. Haven’t had enough? Check out the Rainforest Adventure tour and stay on solid ground for four days of tropical exploration.
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You’ll want to pack plenty of sunscreen as you come and get your tan on with us on this great tour of Australia’s East Coast. Three days sailing the brilliant Whitsunday Islands, two days in tropical Cairns; and if that’s not enough sun, what about the spectacular Great Barrier Reef as well?
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