Friday 24 May 2019 / Cairns QLD, Australia

10 fun facts about Cairns

I landed in Cairns a few days ago, and after spending the weekend exploring I've already discovered so much about this tropical tourist hotspot.

If you don't know much about Cairns, it's a small city in the North East of Australia, situated on the coast. It's dubbed 'the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef', and there are dozens of tours to the reef which depart from the Reef Terminal to the east of the city.

1. The airport is surprisingly small

Seeing as Cairns is such a popular place, you might think that the airport would be bigger. It's actually the 7th busiest airport in Australia, but it has just two terminals and only one runway.

The car parks are located directly outside the arrivals and departures entrances (unlike Britain's busiest airports, where you have to take a shuttle unless you pay a premium to park close). This makes it really handy to be picked up or taken to the airport. I caught an Uber from the airport to central Cairns, which cost $15 (around £8) including an airport pickup fee of $2.

2. As soon as you land, the landscape will take your breath away

Cairns is surrounded by rainforest-covered mountains on one side and the coast on the other. When I landed, it was sunset and the sky had turned into a tropical pink blanket over the mountains. While I was waiting for my Uber and admiring this stunning vista, I couldn't help but smile as I knew I'd picked the right destination. On the drive into central Cairns, I caught a glimpse of the coast - it looked so peaceful, just waiting to be explored.

Cairns is incredibly photogenic, so make sure you bring a good camera on your trip.

Pelicans playing with fire on a beach notorious for crocs

3. You can't paddle or sunbathe on the beach because of crocs (not the shoes, although I run away at the sight of those, too)

If you want to spend your holiday on a beach, flitting between the sand and water, tropical Queensland probably isn't for you. There are saltwater crocodiles all over this part of Australia, so it's best to avoid beaches just in case a croc is laying in wait. Unlike other deadly creatures in Australia, crocs aren't more afraid of you than you are of them. They will attack wherever there is an opportunity for a meal, so if there's a sign telling you not to swim - don't swim. 

With this in mind, I haven't actually seen a crocodile on the beach here. But I don't really think I want to.

4. People are out and about all day

Due to the fact that a) Cairns is a city, and b) it's also a tourist hotspot, you'll find people milling about at all times of the day. So if you're worried about feeling isolated, don't! I've been out at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise, and there were people jogging on the esplanade, getting coffee and driving about.

Cairns has a laidback vibe, but it's still lively.

Cairns Esplanade after a rain shower

5. The roads take ages to cross as a pedestrian

Roads in Cairns are really wide compared to British roads. In some roads where I live, you'd be lucky to get two cars passing each other due to how tight the widths are. In Cairns, the roads accommodate large vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. However, although there are pedestrian walkways along many roads here, crossing the road is a little more difficult, as it just takes so long. Bear this in mind if you're a slow walker or have a physical disability, and plan routes where you won't have to feel rushed.

I actually prefer getting from one side of town to the other via the esplanade, as it's a prettier walk without any cars.

6. It feels very safe for female solo travel

As I mentioned earlier, there are people out and about in town all day, so I've never felt like I'm alone. That, mixed with a friendly vibe, has made me feel safe and welcome. I've met plenty of other solo women travellers, so the city is obviously well-known for this aspect.

Runners in the Cairns Marathon April 2019

7. The weather here can change in seconds

As I've been writing this, the weather has changed from torrential rain, to high winds, to full sun, and back again. When you're out in Cairns, I would prepare for all eventualities, as you never known what kind of weather you'll get stuck in. One constant is the humidity; summer is coming to an end here now, and it's still humid. I can't imagine what it's like in December!

8. You can't avoid the noise of planes

Cairns airport is a 10-minute drive away from the city centre, so you're probably going to hear a plane several times throughout the day and night unless you're way out of the flight path or you're staying in accommodation with soundproofing. I wouldn't say it bothers me, though. It's not unbearably loud and it doesn't wake me up at night.

Cold brew from Aqua Lagoon Cairns

9. Bats casually hang around in trees on the streets

I was walking to the shopping centre when I heard the chirping of what I thought was a flock of very loud birds. I looked up, and to my amazement I saw dozens of bats hanging in the tree above me. Sadly, around a third of the bat population in Queensland were killed last year in an intense heatwave, so it's wonderful to see them here (hopefully) thriving; although, some locals don't like that they congregate in Cairns and have the potential to spread disease.

I personally love bats and think they're beautiful creatures; but I understand how some people are scared of them thanks to vampire stories and the potential rabies threat. If you're scared of bats, I would avoid walking under large fruit trees, as they are attracted to the nectar.

10. The locals are super polite

I always have so much respect for locals, as a tourist. I understand how frustrating it can be when your favourite restaurants are crowded with tourists and you can't get a seat, or when you have to dodge people throwing their arm out for a selfie almost everywhere you go. And it's even worse when there are really rude or loud tourists who ruin it for everyone. But I didn't come across many locals in Cairns who (at least openly) showed their disdain for tourists. Many people have smiled at me while I'm out and about, apologised if they've accidentally got in my way, and even struck up a conversation with me and recommended attractions to visit. I feel really welcome here, and it has made my stay that little bit more special.

Follow more of my travels here on my blog, or on Instagram @jenloumeredith.

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