My Solo Travel Guide to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

By Sarah - Monday, December 10, 2018

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

I managed to visit Cairns for 3 days and my trip there was to ultimately was to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I mostly stayed in the city when I was there, and it just felt really laid back and casual, which I am definitely into.

To be really close to the lagoon and the Reef Fleet Terminal (where boats depart to head to the reef), I decided to book a private room in Mad Monkeys Backpackers Waterfront. The location of this hostel is perfect and only about a 5-8 minute walk to the terminal. This is pretty important if you struggle to wake up in the mornings as most boats depart at about 0730. There is breakfast provided (sadly, I wasn't able to try out their hot breakfast which has pancakes as it only starts at 8am) and while the shared bathroom and toilet facilities aren't the cleanest, my stay was generally enjoyable. Do also note that if you book a private room, it is near the bar area and music does play pretty loudly at night. As a person who slept at around 10.30pm, I had to plug in earplugs before bed! Despite this, if you're a social butterfly, the bar is a great place to mingle with other travellers.

I did not book any tours for my first day there, so I took the time to explore the city area. There is a pretty big Woolsworth to stock up on snacks and groceries, and the Cairns Central Shopping Centre which has Target and Kmart if you need to purchase any affordable clothing or such for your trip! At night, there is the Cairns Night Market where you can find some souvenirs or get a massage (even though I was tempted, I decided not to as it felt a little dodgy to me!). What I do recommend is getting yourself a churro! There is a shop right at the entrance near Abbott street and they have tons of churro options. I got myself an original one (and it was huge!) for only AUD 4. That's pretty affordable for churros in my standards. Also, I kept eating the Katsu Don from Hero Sushi at the food court as it was really hearty and affordable (less than AUD 10!).

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

My second day was my visit to the Great Barrier Reef! Honestly, I was hesitant on visiting as I felt that tourism in the area is probably not beneficial for the corals and all. However, I have to admit that my urge to visit was stronger than the nagging thought so I did book it in the end. I booked my day tour which included snorkelling and one introductory dive with Down Under Dive via Viator. Ethical considerations and personal opinions aside, it was a real good experience and even though I was nervous to dive, I thought I did pretty well. There were tons of colourful fishes! However, it's sad to see that numerous corals were bleached (I did read reports that some corals are likely to regain their colour during winter when the water temperature is cooler, so fingers crossed). The boat brought us to 2 outer reef locations (where visibility is said to be better with more hard corals than soft ones) and I did notice that we were the only boat in the area.

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

We also had a barbecue lunch before heading over to the second snorkel location and the food was really delicious. Overall, if you're planning to pay a visit, you can definitely check this tour out! The tour ends roughly about 5pm and they dropped us back at the Reef Fleet Terminal after. I did check out Schnitz for dinner and I gotta say, their chicken parma was pretty good but it was their fries/chips that were exceptionally delicious in my opinion (try it with their aioli sauce)!

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

My last day was a day tour to the Daintree Rainforest, Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge (which I also booked via Viator here). This is pretty cool as the Daintree rainforest is part of the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest in the world. The view was pretty spectacular and since I visited during the dry season, we had the opportunity to swim in Mossman Gorge too.

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns, Mossman Gorge and Daintree Rainforest

I also booked a Daintree River Cruise as I wanted to spot some crocodiles! The view from the boat was so stunning and I even managed to see Scarface (the largest crocodile in the river!). It was just casually swimming across and our guide told us that it was about 4.5 meters long.

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns, Mossman Gorge and Daintree Rainforest

Cape Tribulation was pretty nice as well, but we were cautioned to not walk along the water at the beach as crocodiles might be lurking in the water. This tour incorporated quite a bit of driving, so do be prepared for that. However, if you're a fan of nature and learning more about the diverse range of plants in the rainforest, this tour could be worth checking out!

Solo Travel Guide to Cairns, Cape Tribulation and Daintree Rainforest

I don't have as many recommendations as I had in my Sydney travel guide, as I mostly did day tours and I was only there for three nights. Personally, I wanted to visit the Kuranda Village via the Kuranda Train and Skyrails as I heard that the view was spectacular but I did not have enough time. It could be something to research on if you're heading to Cairns! I hope that my choice of tours helped you out as well. My Melbourne guide will be up next and that will be full of recommendations as I have so many things to talk about!

My Solo Travel Guide to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

Till then,




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