Cairns and Great barrier reef have been in my bucket list for quite some time now. Before international borders closed in 2020, my primary focus was travelling to international destinations to experience different countries, but the end of 2020 the government only opened a few state borders within Australia and I knew it was the time we travelled internally. and boy let me tell you, the beauty and nature we have within this beautiful country is so magnificent that I had to wonder why travel overseas to get the same experience. If cairns have been in your bucket list for some time now, well now is the best time to do it.
I wanted to spend 2020 New years eve in a different destination, so I booked a trip to cairns so we get to cover off all of that.
Total budget without airfare cost $3000 for two people ( we had flight credit from a previous trip we booked, which covered our airfares. But please note we went on New years eve where everything was expensive including hotels & restaurant surcharge applies.
What to do in cairns in 3 days
The long answer is to read my whole blog because I have detailed every single thing you have to do. The short answer is Kuranda scenic railway, Great barrier reef and Fitzroy Island. If you can squeeze in a waterfall, definitely do that, as cairns have beautiful waterfalls.
Our 4 day Itenary in cairns
1 st day
- 6.00 a.m. Flight to cairns
- 8.15 a.m. – Get off the flight, Leave bags at the airport locker & take a taxi to the freshwater station
- 9.55 a.m. – Scenic Kuranda train ride
- 11.55 a.m. – Arrive Kuranda
- Walk in the rain forest, have lunch at a local shop
- 1.30 Sky Rail back to Smithfield (2 stops on the way 15 mins each to check )
- 3.00 p.m. – Arrive Smithfield (which is bottom) from Sky Rail
- Take Uber, collect bags at the airport and take a taxi to the hotel
- 4 p.m. check-in at the hotel ( stay near a hotel that is close to the pier as most of the tours depart from the pier)
- 7.00 p.m Dinner and explore the city & nightlife
- 7.30 am breakfast
- – Will need to bring the bags down as well for checkout and leave them at the hotel.
- 8.20 a.m. Leave to the terminal (5 min walk)
- Departs 9.30 am (need to be at the Terminal no later than 8.30 am) It is a 3 to 5 mins walk from the hotel
- 5.00 p.m. Will be back at Cairns, collect bags from the hotel and take uber to palm cove
- 6.00 p.m. Arrive at palm cove hotel relax
- 5.00-6.00 Happy hour drinks
- 8.00 p.m. Dinner reservation at the chill cafe palm cove
- 9.00 a.m. Breakfast
- 10.00 a.m. leave hotel to the terminal
- 11.00 a.m. Departs cairns
- 11.45 In Fitzroy Island
- 2.00 p.m. departs Fitzroy
- 400 p.m. Back in the hotel
- 5.00-7.00 p.m. Relax at the hotel swim in the pool, cocktails
- 8.00 p.m. Dinner reservation at Nunu’s
- 8.30 a.m. Breakfast
- 10.00 a.m. checkout
- 11.30 Cairns pier and explore the esplanade and lunch ( Howling Jay’s)
- 12.20 leave to the airport
- 14.30 Flight back to Melbourne
What to do in cairns on 31st night
If there was one state that knew how to say ‘adieu’ to 2020, well Queensland was definitely the one. Cairns was buzzing and parties all over, of course maintaining social distancing. We booked Rileys Rocco Masquerade NYE eve party.
I believe they do it every year. A ticket price was $200 per person which included Free alcohol, live music, Free-flowing finger food which consist of 10 different savoury items and a dessert buffet) view for the fireworks. Which was all well worth it. If you are in Cairns definitely book Rocco by Rileys NYE party as it will be worth all the money you spend.
Sky rail Cairns ( Kuranda scenic railway)
Kuranda scenic railway is $107 per person which included the railway up to the top and cable car ride back down. We took the 6 a.m flight, left our bags at the station in a locker and took a taxi straight to the freshwater station to catch this train at 9.55 a.m.
This is a must-do in Cairns as north Queensland is very famous for its rainforests and the view from the top is amazing and the scenic beauty with all the waterfalls and mountains are mesmerising. They will provide you with a leaflet explaining all the history behind this. Definitely take some insta worthy pictures while up there. Once you reach the top there is a village called Kuranda village, where you will disembark.
We decided to have lunch there in a german restaurant called German tucker and definitely have some german beer as well. Then we walked through the rain forest to reach the cable car start point this will be a 45-minute hike through the rainforest, make sure to wear comfy shoes. you don’t have to go through the rain forest but we did it as we had plenty of time.
Once you reach the cable car the descend down to the station will begin this will be approx 1-hour cable car ride downstairs. There will be two stops on the way, so make sure to get off and look at the beauty. This whole tour will take a whole day, once we got to the hotel it was 5 p.m
Visit Great barrier reef – Cairns barrier reef tours
We did this tour with sun lovers cruise and its $195 per person which will include free snorkelling, snorkelling gear and the lycra suit, lunch, glass-bottom boat tour, water slides, underwater viewing, fish feeding.
I Loved this tour, as everything was well explained and the staff was very attentive. Definitely well worth the price. We did quite a bit of research and this was one of the tours that have so many inclusions and we are glad we chose this tour. There are so many extras such as guided snorkel tours and sea walking & scuba diving for an extra price.
I really wanted to do some of these extra paid activities, but I am glad I didn’t, because all scuba diving and sea walking was happening right below me, and there was nothing extra that can be seen, so I recommend just stick to the snorkelling as that will cover off most of the things you wish to see. But if you want to tick off a bucket list activity by doing scuba diving, go for it!!
Also for people who cannot swim don’t worry, they give you a life jacket, once you wear it, you will just float no matter what. You will have around 3-4 hours in the outer reef, that will be plenty of time to swim, snorkel and do all the fun activities. Once you return back to cairns it will be around 5 p.m
Fitzroy Island day trip
How to get to fitzroy island
We wanted this tour with Fitzroy island adventures to be a small tour as we booked a really good resort in palm cove and needed time to explore it and rest, so we booked a tour for 2 hours on the island. 11 a.m depart and come back at 2 p.m ( only 2 hours in the island ) when I say tour its just the ferry to Fitzroy island
$70 per person to get to the island and back to cairns.
Things to do on Fitzroy island
Once we got to Fitzroy island we hiked to the Nudey beach, don’t worry its not a nude beach, then we spend some time in the water, trust me its a beautiful beach and you don’t want to miss it. It’s about a 15 min walk to that beach. On our way back to the ferry we stopped at foxy’s bar and grabbed a quick bite before returning back to the ferry for our ride back to the hotel.
Where to stay in Cairns
The first night we decided to stay in at a hotel that was close to the 31st-night venue and is walking distance to the cairns jetty. But I will never recommend this hotel to anyone ‘ Pullman cairns international it had horrible service and the worst breakfast I have eaten in my entire life. so I definitely don’t recommend this hotel. It was also a five-star hotel and I was shocked to receive such food and service being a chain hotel.
But I can totally recommend the Shangri-la hotel in cairns as my brother stayed there the last night of his trip and the service, food was excellent and nothing to complain about. there are a few other good hotels in cairns where you can book if you want to stay in the city.
Palm cove cairns
We also wanted to enjoy a resort-style hotel in Palm Cove, which is when we booked the peppers beach and spa in palm cove, I was in love with this resort, they have a pool bar, with 3 types of pools and the resort is situated just in front of the ocean. Breakfast was amazing and the service and staff were excellent. I cannot recommend enough this resort, so definitely book this resort if you are staying in palm cove.
Where to eat in Cairns
Howlin jays Cairns
If you are looking for American style food, definitely try howlin jays, they have some good and spicy chicken wings $25 per person including alcoholic beverages
Where to eat in Palm cove
There are so many restaurants along the esplanade we got to try two restaurants for dinner during our stay
Chill cafe Palms cove has good and filling comfort food.Whether its a cozy pasta or a wood fire pizza, they got you covered. Love the food there it will cost around $75 for two people with alcoholic beverages
Nunu’s restaurant is a one chef hat restaurant with an Asian influenced touch to all food, loved the food here, the cocktails and wine, it will cost around $80 per person including alcoholic beverages. the concept is shared platters. Definitely a must-try restaurant in Palm cove.
Cairns esplanade lagoon
Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is a public swimming pool that is monitored by lifeguards and the swimming pool is filled with saltwater from the lagoon. You definitely cannot miss the esplanade as the signature landmark of this space is the metal fish that splashes water. Most of the restaurants are located just next to the esplanade as well.
So will Cairns be in your bucket list as well this year? Comment below