Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Solo Traveler Guide to Cairns, Australia

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C A I R N S


Tropical North Queensland 
AUSTRALIA




About Cairns

Cairns is a small tourist town in North Queensland known as one of the gate to the Great Barrier Reef. It is surrounded by the ocean, mountain, river and rain forest. The people are really friendly in Cairns and the community is very diverse. You are probably going to meet a lot of backpackers (or see a lot of backpacker accomodation), from solo traveler, young couple, family or even elderly people. 

In my opinion, Cairns is safe for solo female traveler but you still need to stay alert especially when you are walking around the city at night in a quieter neighbourhood. 

The best time to visit Cairns :

  • Spring (September - November) : the weather can be slightly humid ranging from 20 degrees - 29 degrees but on some day it will be humid and you might experience rain
  • Winter (June - August) : rumour has it, winter would be the best time to visit Cairns because it is slightly cool down ranging between 17 degrees - 26 degrees and it has the lower chance of rain. However, the water temperature will probably drop.
  • Autumn ( March - May ) : you would probably experience a warm autumn in Cairns but the rain will subsides in April yet Cairns can be windy until winter comes.
  • Summer (December - February) : Summer could probably not a good season to visit Cairns. The wet season is rumoured to start around December and it will reach a peak hot and humid weather in Cairns. 
I visited Cairns in Spring from October 22nd until October 26th. On my first day, I arrived around 9 am to a humid morning then I was welcomed with rainy day (afternoon till night). 


Getting Around Cairns

From the airport to the city centre or your accomodation (around city centre), the taxi fare cost around AUD 25 - AUD 30. 

You can get around the city by feet because it wasn't a really big city. Some accomodations offer free bike rental.

If you are capable of driving and have international driving permit, you can hire a car for the whole trip. But since I can't drive, I rely a lot on Uber especially when I have early tour or I am going home late at night. 

Buses are available and it is really efficient if you are going to Palm Cove, Trinity Beach or The Botanic Garden.

Note :
Some tours offer hotel pick-up but make sure you confirm the details with them prior to your tour.


Where I Stay in Cairns

I stayed in an Airbnb Apartment approximately 15 minutes walk from The Esplanade. It was a private room in a two bedroom apartment. I shared the apartment with a lovely couple from Beijing. We barely see each other (only at night when they were cooking dinner) and when they told me it was their last day. 

What I love about my accomodation is that I got an ensuite private room; a room with my own bathroom, walk-in closet and my own balcony. The reason why I chose Airbnb rather than backpacker or hotel is that I am able to cook during my trip which enable be to save on food and for a solo traveler like me, it costs cheaper than hotel in Cairns and somehow I feel safer. I have compared all the prices and that was the best option I can have.

The Cost : 4 nights stay + Service Fee = AUD 250

Here's the airbnb apartment that I stayed at.

Book the property here
Get some creditoff when you book through this link

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Photo from Balcony

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Kitchen

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The Trip Highlights

During my five days trip, I spent three full days exploring around.


First Day - Got caught by the rain.

On the first day, I arrived quite early to Cairns with a lack of sleep. So I only visited the botanic garden then I got caught in rain. Then I decided to stock food, snacks and whatever I might need for the trip and I just stayed in the apartment for the rest of the day and be fully rested for my big trip to The Great Barrier Reef.


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Second Day - The Great Barrier Reef

Visiting The Great Barrier Reef is like one of the must-do things when you visit Australia. It has to be in your bucket list if you haven't put it on already. The Great Barrier Reef is the reason why I came to Cairns, not that I am pro-diver or anything, but I just had to visit and see this place with my own eyes rather than hear or read about it a thousand times.

I went to Great Barrier Reef with Down Under Dive & Cruise. I booked the trip for AUD 255 from BOOK ME (click the link here) Get High Package which includes free snorkling, free lunch, and 10 minutes Helicopter Ride (Yes! my first heli ride!!!!!). Later on the boat you will be offered the option to do introductory dive (additional price apply).


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Down Under Cruise has the three level boat and it was quite new at the time but I highly recommend you to experience The Great Barrier Reef with them. They will stop at two reefs, one in the morning then the other in the afternoon. Staffs on board are diverse, friendly and helpful and I don't think I could say that I had an amazing time without thanking their amazing hospitality. 
I remember when I was trying to do introductory dive, they were very supportive of me and very patient in training the two-steps (before you are allowed to go deeper in the water). They allowed me to try twice and very understanding of my incapability to adapt in water with diving gears. The team even offered me to try my third time at the second reef but I was too seasick to go back to the water. Oh, I didn't find Nemo :(


My first helicopter ride experience was hella amazing. I was speechless to see The Great Barrier Reef from aerial point of view. It was really beautiful and even photos can not do the justice.


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We came back to Cairns around 4pm, then I hopped on the bus to Palm Cove for sunset. The whole day ended up so beautifully and even six months later when I am writing this article, I can feel how wholly I felt that day :)


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Third Day - SKY DIVING


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I have a phobia of heights and the only way to face my biggest fear is to do skydiving. The reason I do skydiving in Cairns is that it was probably the cheapest option comparing to any skydiving company in Australia (not reliable resource). 

I booked the skydiving with Tandem Cairns through BOOK ME

Here is the price breakdown :
TANDEM SKYDIVING
(from 15,000 feet)                                             = AUD 295
Documentation
(Photos & Videos from instructor's camera)    = AUD 135
Insurance
(in case something happened)                           = AUD 30

                                                           TOTAL     = AUD 460

The group gathered at Tandem Skydiving Office then the bus went around to pick up some more people before we headed out the the skydiving location. If I wasn't mistaken, it was 16 people in total and we were divided to 6 or 7 groups. I chose the highest altitude, 15,000 feet! Beach landing is also available.

Check out the video above watch my Cairns trip plus my skydiving video. It was one of the best thing I have ever done and I will never forget it; the heartbeat, the adrenaline, my fear.


I got back to the city around 3 pm, so I decided to have lunch since I haven't eaten anything since the morning (I had two nut bars). Then I head to Cairns Night Market for some sweets and I walked to the esplanade for sunset.
Surprisingly there are things going on at the esplanade at noon such as aerobic class, yoga class or even free performances by musicians and there are a lot of locals swimming at the lagoon or simply watching the sun goes down.


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Fourth Day - KURANDA 


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On my last day, I decided to do something a little bit different. I decided to take Kuranda Scenic Train and it turned out to be one of the memorable train ride I ever had. 

This old scenic train takes you from Cairns Central Station to Kuranda Village and during the train ride you will be informed about how the track was built and the history about Kuranda Train. You will also see beautiful scenery of Cairns, Barron Falls, etc.

Once you arrive in Kuranda Village, take some time to explore the lovely little village.


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For the ride back, I chose to hop on the skyrail that takes you down to the city. On your way back with skyrail, there are 2 or 3 stops that allows you to explore more of Kuranda, such as Butterfly Sanctuary, Barron Falls, or there is another stop that I don't remember. But I skipped all of the stops and head back to the city. From the skyrail station, there will be bus that will take you back to the city.


After the Kuranda trip, I went straight back home. I was kinda exhausted and wanted to pack up my belongings and get ready to fly back to Sydney the next day.


Fifth Day - SUNRISE AT THE ESPLANADE


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I woke up really early and took uber to The Esplanade. If you follow me on my instagram, you know I have a thing for sunrise and early morning is the perfect time to beat the crowd. It was really nice to take a morning dip with less crowd and enjoying a nice morning weather. 



My trip summary and a little note...

Believe me or not, but I skipped Port Douglass, Daintree Rainforest, and Fitzroy Island. I know on most of people's itinerary, they include one of those three or even all three during their visit. But as someone who comes from Indonesia, especially Borneo, I exclude Daintree Rainforest and crocodile farm because I have them back at home and the tour costs a little bit higher (approx AUD 135) for a day trip. 

Regarding Port Douglass, I decided if the fate ever allowed me to come back to Cairns, I will visit just Port Douglass and enjoy their amazing resorts. Port Douglass is like a little luxury getaway in my sight and it indeed deserves a longer and exclusive visit.

I didn't visit Fitzroy Island nor any waterfalls because I am not a big fan of water and I can barely swim in the ocean or deep water. I just don't trust myself enough in the water. But if you are someone who loves being in the water, you should definitely include Fitzroy Island in your list but always beware of jellyfish.


Overall, the trip to Cairns was remarkable. I still couldn't believe I did all of these on my own but little did I know I gain so much from this trip, mentally. I would highly recommend fellow solo traveler, male or female to pick up your bag, book your flight and just go.
Let yourself adapt to nature and surrounding, you will be surprised along the way.


I would love to answer all the questions regarding my Cairns trip! ASK ME xxx Lenny








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