The hidden gems of Cairns

It’s not often that I read blog posts that make me angry, but that’s what happened last week when I read a post that branded Cairns as boring with nothing to do.

Err – excuse me? To misquote a line I half remember from SATC: no one talks like that about my city!

The thing is, it’s a really common misconception. So many people blast through Cairns, ticking off the must dos as they go and barely even scratching the surface of this weird little city. I can always tell how long someone spent in Cairns based on if they liked the place or not. If their opinions are on the negative side then I’ll wager they only stayed for a few days at most. For those who fell in love, it’s likely their stay was a long one allowing them to see the things that so many have fallen in love with.

great barrier reef non swimmers sunlover pontoon

The Great Barrier Reef is amazing – but there’s so much more to see!

The Foodie Scene

Yep, I wouldn’t have believed it either! But after living there for 4 years I’d barely even scratched the surface of all the possible places to eat, mostly because there were new places opening every week. There are options for everything from amazing ramen to fresh seafood to fine dining. It’s no wonder I didn’t manage to lose too much weight living in Cairns, there’s too many delicious things to eat!

It’s also really easy to make you own delicious meals too, with the weekly Rusty’s markets selling locally grown produce. Seriously, nothing makes you feel more like a grown-up than heading to a farmers market at the weekend. Even if you’re heading there with a raging hangover.

Delicious local produce at Rusty’s market

The Coffee

Move over Melbourne, Cairns does great coffee but served up wth about 100% less pretension. In the last few years the coffee culture in Cairns has exploded, and now boutique cafes like BlackBird, Sing Sing and Caffined are popping up all over the city. BlackBird even do coffee flights, an evening where you can sample and taste some of their best offerings.

Source. Because apparently, I don’t take photos of my coffee anymore

The Free Fitness

You’re going to need to move that butt if you’re going to stay in shape what will all the food on offer. Luckily for you, Cairns council offers a host of free ways to get that heart rate up! If the gym is your thing, there are workout stations along the Esplanade allowing you to work out with a view. For those who prefer a class, there is an entire timetable of workout classes available for free and ranging from aquaerobics to Zumba. Of course, the famous lagoon is a great spot for a swim and definitely beats lengths in a sweat indoor pool! And getting your heart rate up has never been easier than heading to the Botanical gardens and tackling a few loops of the Red Arrow. Just make sure to apply some mosquiote repellant before heading in for a hike, otherwsie the only weight you’ll lose will be the blood that’s been sucked out.

Sure beats a treadmill and sweaty dudes groaning. Source.

The Arts and Culture

I know what you’re thinking – isn’t Cairns just a city full of drunk backpackers? Well, no! It actually has a lively arts scene with places like the Tanks Arts centre, Cairns Regional gallery and COCA, all hosting some amazing exhibits and installations. The newly opened Munro martin parklands are a beautiful open air performance space that has hosted operas, classical music concerts and festivals. COCA regularly hosts film festivals and plays, and the local theatre company JUTE regularly performs award winning original work. Sure it might not be Melbourne – but there’s a heck of a lot to see for such a small city.

Oh, and I did mention that Elton John is playing one of his two 2017 shows in Cairns? Damn – why did I move to New Zealand again?

Inside one of the Tank art galleries. Source.

The Natural Beauty

So many people arrive, tick off the Great Barrier Reef, squeeze in a Rainforest tour, and then leave assuming that’s all there is. But that doesn’t take into account the stunning northern beaches, local waterfalls and nearby mountains. I lived in the city and could find myself in the middle of some rainforest in 10 minutes. Walking along the Esplanade in the evening and watching the sun set is amazing. Stand in the city centre at twilight and watch thousands of bats leaving their roosts to feed for the night. Drive for a few kilometres and find yourself in national park.

Perhaps that’s the problem – there’s simply too many amazing things to see. You have to narrow it down somehow!

Literally a 10 minute walk from my old house. Closer than my tube station when I lived in London.

Have you ever visited Cairns – if you have what did you think? Did I convince you that there’s more to Cairns than meets the eye?


Share on
Previous Post Next Post

You may also like


  • Reply Christine Keane @ The Journey of Christine

    With the Great Barrier Reef alone, how can someone call Cairns boring? Would love, love to visit Australia one day! And Cairns is actually high on my list of Australian cities to visit! #TravelLinkUp

    March 2, 2017 at 3:03 am
    • Reply Cheskie

      I think people see the pubs and make assumptions. You definitely need to visit though – it’s my favourite place in the world!

      March 2, 2017 at 9:28 am
  • Reply Sarah

    It looks pretty great to me! It’s so hard to make a judgement about a city if you haven’t spent more than a few days there – but I guess some cities are “tourist” cities and others are “living” cities and in some cases may be a bit mutually exclusive!

    March 2, 2017 at 3:43 am
    • Reply Cheskie

      A good point! My friend insisted she hated London…until I moved there, she came to visit and genuinely never left. Now 7 years on she’s still a Londoner!

      March 2, 2017 at 9:31 am
  • Reply Jasmin Charlotte

    I’d love to go to Cairns! My family did it for Christmas a couple of years ago and the photos just looked amazing. Such a gorgeous place in the world!

    March 2, 2017 at 7:53 am
    • Reply Cheskie

      It’s the most amazing place, definitely put it on your list (and feel free to ask for tips when you go!)

      March 2, 2017 at 9:33 am
  • Reply Tiffany

    Looks like a lovely city! I am skeptical when anyone says there is nothing to do anywhere as well. There is always something to do.#travellinkup

    March 2, 2017 at 8:31 pm
    • Reply Cheskie

      My mum used to say only boring people get bored…ha!

      March 17, 2017 at 2:11 pm
  • Reply Ayla

    We visited Cairns on our first big round the world trip 9 years ago now. I liked the city but to be honest it did just seem to be full of tourists and used as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Although our trip was so long ago now and was long before I started blogging so maybe I should take a trip back and see the city a bit more in depth!

    March 3, 2017 at 7:37 pm
    • Reply Cheskie

      I can definitely see how people might not like it at first – but trust me it grows on you, and is definitely deserving of a second visit 😉

      March 17, 2017 at 2:12 pm
  • Reply Ngaire

    This has totally got me excited for my trip to Cairns and Port Douglas that I have coming up. It’s pretty cool to read about places you’re heading to that other people love, thanks for sharing!

    March 5, 2017 at 5:54 am
    • Reply Cheskie

      I’m so excited that you’re heading there! There is SO much to do, I definitely recommend booking things in advance at Easter as it gets so busy.

      March 17, 2017 at 2:14 pm
  • Reply Eppie

    Who on earth are these people?! How dare they say its boring!

    March 8, 2017 at 1:47 am
    • Reply Cheskie


      March 17, 2017 at 2:14 pm
  • Reply Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This is definitely the loveliest thing about slow travel – the ability to unwrap hidden gems!

    March 12, 2017 at 7:06 am
    • Reply Cheskie

      So true! You get time to peel back the layers!

      March 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm
  • Reply Agness of Fit Travelling

    This seems like an amazing place fo living there, Cheskie! I would love to get the chance to visit it one day!

    March 24, 2017 at 7:38 am
    • Reply Cheskie

      It’s the most amazing place, my favourite in Australia for sure!

      March 24, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Leave a Reply