After an epic four weeks of travelling up the East Coast - taking in the stunning sights of Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, traipsing through the national park in Noosa and kayaking across Byron Bay, we were more than ready for the final stop on our tour. Cairns is one that everyone talks about and we were excited to see what it would have to offer - if our previous stops were anything to go by it was going to be pretty amazing! More than anything, we were looking forward to the huge reunion we would have with all of our friends we had met along the way - with countless more stops along the East Coast route, we'd lost some friends to places like 1770 and Mission Beach, but we were all due to arrive in Cairns during the same week. When you've got a huge week like this planned, it's important to have a good hostel ready and waiting for you, and in Cairns there's only one that people talk about - Gilligan's! Owned by Base Backpackers, the super-hostel is a multi-level hostel with rooms ranging from four to ten bed, each boasting en suite facilities with a kitchen on every level. To say it was one of the best and most impressive hostels I have stayed in was an understatement - the nightlife was great, the location was perfect being right in the middle of Cairns, it was the cleanest hostel I have ever stayed in and there were loads of deals for those staying there including free backpacker dinners when you bought a drink each evening. We had booked in for four nights, but already planned for stay for at least a week.As soon as we arrived the reunions started, we bumped into some friends we had met down in Airlie Beach and Noosa and went for drinks and dinner. That first night there saw us joining upon the fun and games downstairs as the staff had us all playing Bogan Bingo - a hilarious game we ended up playing over a few different nights. The next few days were spent exploring Cairns - we checked out the lagoon and spent a few days sunbathing and barbecuing down there with friends, we headed out in the evenings for drinks and ended up partying in the Woolshed - another place you simply have to go. It was a blur of fun, goon and complete exhaustion - every night we partied and every day we spent the whole thing out in the sun. Between this we had trips planned including The Great Barrier Reef, Cape Tribulation and White Water Rafting Xtreme - more on these in my upcoming posts. So we were fully booked with plans and on top of this we had to find time to hang out with everyone before we all parted ways as some people flew home, others to New Zealand and others to the other side of Australia.Cairns was a great little place, as soon as you arrived it felt like you were on holiday as you could tell most of the people walking the streets were. It was full of shops, bars, restaurants and more, and the lagoon was packed with sunbathers every single day. I could understand how some people could love it and end up staying to work, but personally it wasn't somewhere I could have stayed longer - I was happy to stay for 10 days of fun with friends but that was what kept me there for so long, not the place. I found myself very aware that it was a holiday town and that people were constantly passing through - that the backpacker culture there was so transient it was less of a culture and more of a business. But that was fine with me, I had no plans to stay longer than we did and I didn't want to work in Cairns, it was just a perfect end to our East Coast trip. So where did we spend our nights? In true backpacker style, we followed the cheap drinks and food which took us to our own balcony, to Gilligan's bar, the Woolshed and Irish bar, and for one night we ended up in a bar around the corner after being offered unlimited drinks and pizza for $20 or $30 on a Sunday night. Best advice for saving money, trawl the streets and keep your eyes open for deals - these girls just passed us some leaflets as we crossed the street for that one and it was a great night!Another really great night we had in Cairns was actually one when we were bored one night and decided to go out for a drink and a walk. We were walking when we heard a load of fireworks going off and spotted the shower of stars beyond some trees, we headed over and saw that they must have been part of an event that was ongoing at the cruise terminal - naturally the journalist in me wanted to know what was going on and walked straight over. Despite it being a private and ticketed event, we waited until the doormen were distracted then snuck in to find a really lovely party going on. It was celebrating an Aboriginal art exhibition opening and how better than to do that with music, champagne, fireworks and food? We ended up checking out the exhibit which featured pieces worth tens of thousands, hobnobbed with the other guests and enjoyed some fancy foods and fine wine. It was a bit of a treat considering we had been living off scraps for the last week. It was a really refreshing change to be around that kind of event and some of the pieces of art were amazing - we ended up having a really interesting night and it was totally different to what we had been up to every other night. I love when you stumble across things like that.
Have you been to Cairns - what did you think? What was your favourite bar in town? Have you crashed any exciting events?