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9 Things to Do and Know about Cairns – Backpacker Guide

Cairns is a backpacker hotspot in Australia. There is loads of stuff going during day, also during nightlife and there are many places to see around the city in the North of Australia.

Cairns is a very popular destination for backpackers. The city offers numerous excursions for tourists. The proximity to the Great Barrier Reef makes it the capital of the reef.

The Cairns Lagoon

The city is located directly by the sea, but has no beach, except at low tide a large area with mud. But they have built directly between the center and the sea the “Lagoon” with a spacious area. This is in principle an outdoor swimming pool, whereby the entrance is free. Although this lagoon was very well designed, you miss the beach during a longer stay in Cairns.

Tip: backpackers organize evening evenings at the public barbecue grill evenings. But beware, alcohol is forbidden there (some people try to hide it).

The center of Cairns is just behind the Lagoon – very convenient for quick shopping etc. Also hostels are right next door.

Next to the Lagoon there are large toilets with showers. The showers sometimes even provide warm water, as we noticed especially when several showers are used at the same time (do not ask us why). Here you do not stand out when you brush your teeth and the like. Right next to the Lagoon there is a paid parking area.

Cairns Lagoon
Cairns Lagoon

Hostels and Food

Cairns offers numerous backpacker accommodations. Even during the high season in the Australian winter months hostels remain relatively cheap compared to the rest of Australia. It is advisable to book in advance.

If you fly to Cairns, the shuttle transfer from the airport is often refunded – this is mostly advertised on the websites, but you should still write an e-mail to double-check.

Many hostels give you a free dinner. This is usually offered at the Woolshed and at Gilligans. In Woolshed you have the choice between Pasta dishes and Chilli con Carne. I don’t recommend anything in particular, because they are overcooked (which is not uncommon in Australia).


You also have to consume a drink between 6-8pm. Be warned that a pint of beer is very expensive in Australia! Quite a lot of backpackers try to save that money and get the at 8 pm sharp. This results in a huge queue which means that you have to wait 20 minutes for your food.

At Gilligans, however, they provide a different dish every day. The portions are not large, but definitely tastier than in the Woolshed.


Party in Cairns

I experienced the nightlife of Cairns to be among the best in Australia. Parties there are just perfect for backpackers and are aiming for them. It doesn’t matter how you dress like in other cities.

Cairns is very popular among backpackers and that’s why you can have a big night out at any day of the week.

The nightlife in Cairns is very extensive, especially during the high season between May and October. At this time, most backpackers in Australia are probably in this area, as it is still relatively cold south. Nevertheless, the options are not that many, keep in mind that the city is not that big. The nightlife is mostly taking place in a handful of places, the most popular ones are the Woolshed and Gilligans.

The restaurants offer specials on different days, e.g. Ladies Night on Saturday in the Woolshed, often there are also discounted drinks between certain hours. In short: Cairns is definitely a party city, but after a short time you have explored all possibilities.

The best parties, especially for backpackers, are taking place at the legendary Gilligans and the Woolshed. Also the P.J. O’Brien’s Irish Pub just off the Woolshed is always good for a party.

If you haven’t met your partner in crime by 2am, try the McDonalds at the lagoon at this time. 🙂 The center of Cairns is relatively small, so you can find all the restaurants just a few meters apart.



For those of us who have always wanted to jump out of a plane, this wish can easily be realized in Cairns. There are several skydiving companies. One of them offers a jump over the sea followed by a landing on the beach. This jump is relatively expensive. The highest jump you can do is from 14,000 feet (about 4.3 kilometers). It’s best to negotiate a price at all the booking stands around the city, ask at your hostel as well. This page gives you an idea:https://www.skydive.com.au.

If you want to get the movie of your jump, the costs can also vary. The cheap version is the one, where your tandem partner does the movie. The more expensive version is where one extra person jumps as well and makes the video. The cheaper version where your tandem partner does the video is also very cool and I think more than enough.

Tip: Get a few people together who would like to do a jump and ask for a discount. That should be the cheapest way to do it.

Skydiving Australia
Skydiving Australia


Bungee Jumping

The next adrenaline rush can be found in Bungee Jumping, run by AJ Hackett, the inventor of the legendary plunge into the depths. The tower is located near Cairns. With a height of 50m, this is quite modest. Apparently, it’s Australia’s only bungee jump.

However, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have already jumped off this tower. A simple jump costs just about 200 dollars. If you want to jump a second or even a third time on the same day, you can book different packages – more at www.ajhackett.com/cairns.


Hartley’s Crocodile Farm

Hartley’s crocodile farm is located between Cairns and Port Douglas. The admission fee is valid for 3 days. The farm demonstrates very well how crocodiles grab their prey. You will have the opportunity to observe crocodiles while feeding on a boat at a lake. During the crocodile attack show, you can also watch the infamous death role of the reptiles.

The snake show shows how to deal with snakes in the wild and how to react to a bite. You also get to admire other animals, for example Cassowaries, which live in the Australian rainforest (large flightless birds), Wallabies (small kangaroos) or Koalas etc. But mostly the farm is of course all about crocodiles. If you are interested in these animals, this park is highly recommended.

Hartleys Crocodile Farm near Cairns - Crocodile Show
Hartleys Crocodile Farm near Cairns – Crocodile Show
Hartleys Crocodile Farm near Cairns
Hartleys Crocodile Farm near Cairns



During the winter months (May to the end of September), near Kairns at Yorkey’s Knob you can go kite surfing and do kite surfing courses. Courses can be booked at the following websites: www.kiteboardingcairns.com.au.

Kitesurfing courses are quite expensive, anywhere in the world, but I found the prices to be ok compared to other places in the world.


More Activities

Many more activities can be done from Cairns, such as deep sea fishing, freshwater fishing, rafting, tubing, canyoning, helicopter flights, whale watching, etc., etc.

Where to find all this? Just walk through the center, which is really not big. Here, tourist information, booking agencies and hostels line up where you can find flyers in abundance and book tours there.

Beware of the tourist information: In many cases, these are not official tourist information stands, but only booking centers that try to sell something!

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