Cairns travel guide: what to do, where to stay

Heading north this summer? There is no better place to reconnect with Queensland than at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, writes Dilvin Yasa.

It’s crazy how few Australians have visited Cairns, a laid-back city and go-to vacation destination in tropical north Queensland. After all, where else can you dive into the Great Barrier Reef, hike ancient rainforests, and enjoy a lively outdoor dining scene. without have to change hotel once?

If you are planning to visit Queensland now that the borders have reopened, do yourself (and your children) a favor by reviewing the following highlights.

Where to stay

The airy, open-air lobby of the Cairns Bailey. (Crystalbrook Collection)

There is no doubt that Crystalbrook Collection with its three properties currently owns Cairns (my money is on Crystalbrook Bailey, which also offers one, two and three bedroom residences as well as the hotel), but for a superior location right in the heart of the action, you can’t pass Shangri-La La Marina.

Located directly on the marina, a spectacular landscape surrounded by nearby restaurants, bars and kid-friendly activities, the five-star Shangri-La The Marina offers 255 spacious guest rooms and suites – a substantial proportion of them overlooking the sea ​​or the marina itself. Add to that an oversized outdoor pool, kids’ pool and waterfront restaurant and bar, along with a poolside bar and you’ve got the perfect vacation spot.

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Description for The backyard restaurant, the establishment’s restaurant captures the ambiance beautifully with its description of what it offers: “We are cocktails and charcuterie platters, shaded Sunday sessions, buffet breakfasts in the morning sun, long lunches on the deck, sunset drinks in the garden and dreamy dinners under the sparkling fairy lights ”.

We want to come in.

What to do

Turtle in the Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is best known as the gateway to Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef. (iStock)

When you have the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest on your doorstep, it’s fair to say that there is plenty for travelers to do in and around Cairns.

Get to know the lay of the land by taking a helicopter tour of the area with Nautilus Aviation, or if you prefer to focus more gently on the lush rainforests that surround Cairns (the World Heritage Wet Tropics Waterfall Tour included), by booking a hot air balloon adventure with Cairns Hot Air Balloon.

There are plenty of GBR adventures to get your hands on, but many choose to introduce themselves to the reef’s abundant marine life by taking a day trip to either. Green island, which is surrounded by more than 700 hectares of reefs, or Fitzroy Island, which is more wild in nature and features stellar trails as well as the best snorkeling spots.

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The green island of Queensland is surrounded by 700 hectares of reefs.
The green island of Queensland is surrounded by an astonishing 700 hectare reef. (Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Going with children? There’s no doubt you’ll have long, glorious days frolicking along the Esplanade, where a large lagoon pool and substantial area await, but be sure to also lock in a trip to the Rainforest Village. of Kuranda with a Skyrail Rainforest Cable Car and Kuranda Scenic Railroad package, one Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome adventure, and a cheeky afternoon of kneeboarding or wakeboarding at Cairns Wake Park.

Walk away from the city center and you will also come across Crystal waterfalls, a secluded swimming hole surrounded by dense tropical forest. Take a little dip, savor a bite to eat, and then you can take a short walk to nearby Fairy Falls for the ultimate day in tropical scenery at its best.

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Where to dine

Take a thriving cafe culture, a waterfront dining district filled with all manner of cuisine, and the fertile Atherland plateaus serving as Cairns’ own backyard, and you have the perfect holiday destination for foodies. of all budgets.

Many regular visitors to Cairns make two first stops: for Alley of blackbirds stock up on excellent flat whites, and Shrimp star for a casual meal of fresh seafood served on a trawler. Visit both, but if you can, lock in too Bay leaf to enjoy the traditional flavors of Bali, that of Vitalia for decadent pizzas and pasta on the beach and Tamarind for a gastronomic experience located within the Reef Hotel Casino.

Are you traveling with a foreign visitor? No trip to Cairns is complete without a visit to Ocher Restaurant, which focuses on exotic native ingredients for foreigners. Think crocodile meat and insects served with a myrtle sauce.

Of course, Cairns continues to be hot even late at night, so grab your take-out dessert from an ice cream in town (there are plenty of them) and enjoy it with a moonlit stroll – or a late night swim. – along the Esplanade.

For more information on Cairns, visit Tropical North Queensland.

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