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Outdoor Activities in Cairns: Adventure City Guide

Find out how you can find the best Outdoor Activities in Cairns with our comprehensive Adventure City Guide to Cairns in Australia.

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Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Cairns?

As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Charli from Wanderlusters shares with you her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in Cairns; including how to get there and costs.

Why visit Cairns for adventure?

Cairns sits on the north east coast of the state of Queensland. Known as the place where the rainforest meets the reef the area provides a wealth of activities for the adventurous traveller. With its warm climate and laid back vibe the city is an excellent base to explore Australia’s tropical north.

Outdoor Activities in Cairns - Diving

Outdoor Activities in Cairns – Diving the Great Barrier Reef

We spent two months living in Cairns although we’d only planned on visiting for a few days. Camping each night in our Winnebago we utilised the city’s excellent network of bicycle lanes to discover all that is on offer.

Outdoor Activities in Cairns

Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and it would be impossible to visit the city without hopping aboard a boat to see first-hand the beauty of the world’s most extensive coral reef eco system. For the adventurous traveller the only way to experience the reef is to join one of the liveaboard dive boats that take guests out to the best dive sites on the reef.

The famous Cod Hole, Steve’s Bommie and Pixie Gardens all provide world class dives and give a brilliant insight into the diversity of life on the reef.

If you’re a more experienced diver or wish to gain experience fast join Mike Ball’s 7 day Coral Sea Safari and see the best of the Great Barrier Reef as well as the epic shark dive 150km from the shore at Osprey Reef. This five star liveaboard is world renowned for ensuring you see the best the reef has to offer.

Jump in at the Cod Hole and dive with fish the same size as you!

Adventure City Guide - Outdoor Activities in Cairns

Cairns Adventure City Guide

Brush up on your macro photography skills at Steve Bommie where you’ll spot nudibranchs, frog fish and sea horses. You’ll need nerves of steel for the shark feed dive out at Osprey Reef. Descending to fifteen metres your heart will race as you watch their shadows appear from below anticipating a meal. As they frenzy around you’ll need a steady hand to take a photo as they swim inches from your mask. In our opinion this trip is the only way to literally submerse yourself in an unforgettable Great Barrier Reef adventure.

Getting to the Great Barrier Reef

You can jump aboard any of the liveaboard boats in Cairns so no transportation is required.

Mike Ball offers three, four and seven night trips. Note that you must opt for either the four or seven day trip to experience the shark feed. Prices start at $1600 AUD for the three night trip but cheaper rates can be negotiated a week before departure.

SAVVY TIP – We secured a placement on the Mike Ball Expedition Volunteer Programme and worked as dive crew on the boat for two weeks. This meant that we experienced the seven night Coral Sea Safari twice in exchange for two weeks of unpaid employment on the boat.Averaging three dives a day this is a brilliant way to experience the reef on a budget.

Note: To work on the dive deck you must be a certified Dive Master however there are opportunities for Open Water divers to volunteer in the galley.

For more information read our trip report.

White Water Rafting

For adrenaline junkies the opportunity to get off the beaten track and onto some white water is always met with enthusiasm.  The run off from the rainforest and mountain ranges that surround Cairns provides a number of great stretches of river to explore. The Tully River is known throughout Australia and New Zealand for its exceptional rafting and encompasses classes one through five.

Along with the white water rafting a day trip to the River Tully includes the opportunity for rock jumping, raft surfing and rapid swimming. With memorable spots along the stretch of forty five rapids like ‘Alarm Clock’ named because it provides those who pass a soggy wakeup call, and ‘Stair Case’ a nail biting drop, the Tully makes for a first rate adventure from your base in Cairns.

Logistics

When booking your white water adventure you will be advised of a collection point for your journey south to the Tully River. The transport is included in the cost of your rafting experience.

Cairns Rafting offer collection and return to your accommodation, a lunch time BBQ and five hour rafting experience for $195 AUD

SAVVY TIP – Visit the numerous tour desks in the town and barter for the best rate you can. Booking direct with the company is not always the cheapest option. The tour desks receive commission and they often give extra discounts to secure a sale.

Crystal Cascades

The Crystal Cascades - Outdoor Activities in Cairns

The Crystal Cascades Waterfall – Photo by Brian Gratewicke

If you’re strapped for cash take a day trip to the freshwater paradise of Crystal Cascades. Located just twenty minutes west of the city this area is known to locals and tourists alike and is a popular place to cool off in the heat of the day.

With no entry fees this is one of the most affordable paradise retreats you’ll ever find.

With numerous waterfalls and swimming holes set in stunning rainforest surroundings it’s a great place to explore or relax and soak up some sun. There are opportunities for the more adventurous to take part in some cliff jumping. A short walk up the cliff from the largest waterhole will take you to ‘No Fear’ point, the highest part of the cliff face from which you can launch yourself into the water below.

Logistics

While not far from Cairns there are no public transport options to Crystal Cascades.

We recommend hiring a car which can be done for around $35/day. If you’re considering taking a taxi note there is intermittent mobile reception at the falls and you may find yourself unable to call for a ride home. Drive to the suburb of Redlynch, and simply follow the signs to Crystal Cascades. From the Red Beret Pub, the swimming hole is about 10 kilometres away.

There is no entry fee to the falls however be sure to take supplies and sun cream as there are no shops close by.

SAVVY TIP – Chat to other travellers about visiting the falls, they may have their own transport and be interested in experiencing the beauty of the falls themselves. Leave a wanted advert on the noticeboards in hostels and caravan parks advertising for travel buddies to share the cost of car rental and fuel.

Local Secret Adventure in Cairns

If you’ve spent your day laid by the lagoon and are in need of something to get your blood pumping pop down to the esplanade for an evening exercise class. The best part about this programme is that all the classes are free. All you need to do is arrive at the esplanade in the centre of the city equipped with the motivation to burn some calories and away you go.

Choose from yoga, pilates, beach volley ball, aqua aerobics, bootcamp and zumba and get that booty in shape for free.

Cairns Esplanade

Best time of the year to visit Cairns for adventure?

Cairns provides adventurers with activities throughout the year however be aware that the Minkie Whale migratory season is from May to August and you can scuba dive with them aboard Mike Ball’s Minke Whale Expedition in June and July.

Temperatures in northern Queensland can also reach 40°C during the summer months and the area can be hit with thunderstorms and cyclones December to March. If visiting during this time be vigilant about applying sunscreen, wearing a hat and always carry water.

The reason I love Cairns for adventure is because…

The city is nestled in between the aquatic splendour of the Great Barrier Reef and the vibrant canopy of the surrounding rainforest that covers many of the coastal mountain ranges. Both provide endless opportunity for exploration and would keep any explorer happy for the duration of their stay.

And once you’ve explored the natural beauty of the surrounding environment you can experience the cities thriving nightlife and relaxed beach vibe. Sometimes a cool beer and a sea view is just what you need after a day of adventure.

Outdoor activities in Cairns

Sea Snake on the Great Barrier Reef

BIO:

In 2010 Charli & Ben made the decision to live a life less ordinary and six months later embarked on an undefined period of travel.  Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house sitting assignments in each country they visit.

With no time limit restricting their experience they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure.

Find them on Facebook and Twitter or catch up with their journey at their travel website Wanderlusters.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Nicole @ Suitcase Stories

    March 28, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    Great post guys. I am from Queensland so of course have been to Cairns. Its an amazing place! The rainforest, the reef, the beaches – Its all so beautiful. Im so happy you got to experience it and enjoyed it!

    The photos here are awesome! A reminder that there is always beauty at home as well as everywhere else… You just need to open your eyes.

    • Charli l Wanderlusters

      March 29, 2013 at 9:51 PM

      Thanks Nicole, glad we did it justice! It’s a great place to explore, even if you stay in the city there are a wealth of day trips and activities to keep you occupied for weeks!

      I hope we’ll get the chance to return and dive the Great Barrier Reef again. It has to be one of the most incredible scuba diving experiences I’ve had to date.

  2. Pingback: The Radar: Travel Lately – Intelligent Travel

  3. M Jackson

    February 22, 2014 at 6:12 AM

    Thanks for the great post! My boyfriend and I are visiting Cairns in April and are getting excited about the trip. Do you have any suggestions about if booking day trips in advance is recommended? Or is it better to wait until you arrive?

    • Cole Burmester

      March 4, 2014 at 1:28 AM

      Thanks for your question! Bet you are getting excited now! I always prefer to book my day trips once I arrive when I travel because a lot of places usually run specials only available at the booking stands etc. There are also so many competing against one another that you can check them all out once you arrive. You don’t want to book one then find out they are dodgy once you arrive!
      Have fun though and let me know how you get on.
      Cheers,
      Cole

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Adventure Travel

WHY WE LOVE TRAVELLING IN ANTIPOLO (AND YOU SHOULD, TOO)

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Antipolo is one of the seven most popular cities in Philippines which is located in the province of Rizal. The city of Antipolo is famous for being a pilgrimage site and is popularly known as the “pilgrimage site of Philippines”. Being the heritage city of the country Antipolo holds many beautiful and amazing places where you can explore your travel buds. The main and the enshrined attraction of the place is the marine image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage present in the Antipolo museum which was brought from Mexico during the year 1626.

There are many beautiful and extravagant places present in the beautiful city of the Antipolo where one can easily find peace and can explore the beauty of Philippines, the Antipolo style.  The city consists of many historic and natural sites which will blow your mind off and are worth visiting. We have some tourist attractions in Antipolo where you can go exploring with your friends or family or even alone.

Antipolo Cathedral: – Being the most historic and antique church present in the city the Antipolo church is widely famous for its renowned icon, the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. The church is located in the proper town and every year on the month of May Antipolo becomes the centre of attraction for many of the visitors and tourists who travel from faraway lands and locals in order to pay homage to the Our Lady.

Boso Boso church: – This church is mostly a remnant of a centuries old church which was destroyed during the Second World War. This beautiful remnant of the church belongs to the Spanish era that dominated the country of Philippines that for more than 300 years. It was constructed in the year 1700 under the Jesuits. After getting destroyed by earthquake in 1800, the church was abandoned in the 1930 and got into a fire scandal in the year 1945; it got restored back by the government in the year 1995. If you are a great lover of history and past things this place might fascinate you.

Hinulugang Taktak: – The name of the place means “where the bell was dropped”, is a waterfall that was designated by the government of Philippines as a national park. The mesmerizing waterfall got its interesting name due to a turn of event down the history. The priest of the nearby church on the demand of the town people had thrown the church bell into the river as it was causing unwanted sound in the town every time it rang during the Angelus.

Mystical Cave: – The cave is named as mystical because one can see the several religious images that appear inside the cave. Mostly the images are in stalactite and stalagmite formations that mainly resembles religious Gods. The cave consists of two floors but the visitors are allowed to explore the first one without permission.

Pinto Art Museum: – If you adore art and paintings and want to connect with the Antipolo’s culture then this art museum is an amazing chance you to get connected with the locals. The museum mainly displays the art, sculptures and paintings of the local artist bringing out the cultural background of the place.

Not only have these amazing historic places given you a clear image of the Antipolo’s beauty and history but there is a little more than just places that you will find fascinating. As the city of Antipolo is situated in a higher elevation than the Metro Manila, it gives you a breathtaking view of the metropolis at night, which is a sight to behold in the ancient city. In order to stay in the city you can easily find vacation home in Antipolo Philippines where you can stay and enjoy of your own.

Not only just places the city of Antipolo provides you exquisite food choices to make your taste buds go bananas or you can have fresh locally grown mangoes and cashews. The most famous dish in the city is the Suman, which is normally a local delicacy that is made from glutinous rice.

Antipolo is a breathtaking place hidden in the depth of Philippines with a mesmerizing history and culture. It will not only make you fall in love with itself but also will make your eyes reach with beauty.

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Top of Cappadocia day trek with Middle Earth Travel

Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Adventure Travel

Tibet Cycling: The Complete Guide to Lhasa to Ganden Monastery Cycling Tour

Tibet Cycling: The Complete Guide to Lhasa to Ganden Monastery Cycling Tour

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Tibet appeals to travellers in many ways. The first and most important thing is the beautiful natural scenery. However, Tibet is a bit different from the other scenic spots. There is a charm to this place, which is not found anywhere. Travellers have a mind which wanders and loves to explore new things. They can get this experience for their Tibet travel as the various associated activities can completely thrill them. From photography to trekking and cycling, the options never seem to end.

Almost everyone is well acquainted with the various joys of cycling in Tibet, the atmosphere is absolutely perfect. Tourists can pass through several spots and they can enjoy every bit of this beautiful natural land. Cycling happens on various routes and these routes have to be understood thoroughly. In this article, we will discuss about the cycling tour to Ganden Monastery from Lhasa and provide you every detail that you need.

Why travel to Ganden Monastery?

Tibetan Buddhism has a unique appeal which calms the soul of all wanderers. They are struck by wanderlust and the monasteries in Tibet, offer them something to cherish about forever. For those who love religious places, Tibet has plenty of offerings. The monasteries, the temples and the rituals, Tibet’s heritage have always echoed through the ages.  This brings us to Ganden Monastery, which is truly a magical place. It is an absolute wonder in front of the eyes and the viewers are left completely captivated. This was the very first monastery, which laid the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism. The vast expanse of land on Tibet’s western site is absolutely heavenly. Emperor Yongzheng who was from Qing Dynasty gave a very special name to this monastery and called it “Yong Tai”. Situated at a height of 3,800m from the sea’s level, the elevation is majestic. Lagyi Hall, Angyiukang, Yangbagyain Hall are the major construction in this monastery.

Located 47Km away from the capital city of Lhasa, this monastery witnesses a huge influx of people every year. This is an important structure as far as Tibet’s cultural heritage is conserved and it is preserved for this reason. The cultural and artistic significance is terrific and Ganden will always be the centre of Tibet’s attraction. It joins the famous Sera Monastery in a unique list, which also features Drepung Monastery. These three temples are considered “great” and the visitors value them greatly. Tibetan Buddhism features many activities and some of them are grand and marvellous. Once in a year, a giant picture of Buddha is unfolded and it easily attracts disciples from all parts of the country. Cycling to this monastery can provide a great experience, but you must follow the basic guidelines. Once these points are followed, your trip will not only be great, it will be perfect.

Highlights of the amazing cycling tour from Lhasa to Ganden Monastery

Cyclists are of different types and they begin their journey, by having different trips in their minds. We have introduced trips of various lengths and they are tailor-made for each type of traveller. Some people can opt for the short and customized tour, while, others can choose the longer version. The distance from Tibet’s Lhasa to this amazing monastery can vary slightly, depending on the route taken. Cyclists have to travel 60Km to reach their destination and not much difficulty is faced in the process.  Don’t forget to be in a relaxed mood, as you take this trip. Lhasa is a great spot to be in the right frame of mind and two days can be easily spent here.  The famous trip begins from Lhasa River and cyclists go upstream.  Picturesque villages and some amazing farmlands fall between that and they are just perfect. Reaching Ganden is easy and once you reach here, your soul will be touched by a positive vibe. The environment is filled with peacefulness and everything seems perfect here. One night can be spent here to soak in the feeling. The return journey can start next day and Chubuxi village falls in the route. Tibet is all about the unique lifestyle of the locals and this is something you can’t afford to miss.  From Chubuxi, the trekking trip to Samye commences.

The most classic 6 days Lhasa and Ganden Monastery Bike tour, you will enjoy the cycling joy and Tibet wonderful natural landscape and Tibetan monasteries architecture. Most tourists can complete this short ride after relaxing yourself in Lhasa for two days. The ride route begains upstream along the Lhasa River, and you will pass some farmlands and small villages. Then arrive in Gandan monastery, one of six Gelug sect monasteries, and worship this famous monastery. Then you are expected to spend a night at Gandan monastery to experience the peaceful environment. Next day, you will head back to Lhasa, and visit Chubuxi village at the foot of Gandan monastery. On the way you can experience the daily life of local people. Moreover, Chubuxi village is the starting point of Ganden to Samye trek. Finally we move back to Lhasa and the ride ends.

Tackling the changing altitude on the way to Ganden Monastery

The altitude in Lhasa is about 3600m, and that of Ganden Monastery is 3800m. There is no strict change of altitude, so it’s relatively easy for travellers who want to try short cycling in Tibet.  Cycling is a strenuous activity and it can take a toll on your health. That being said, cycling in the rough terrains of Tibet is even more challenging. Ganden is situated high above the normal sea level and this steep rise can often weaken cyclists. The high altitude woes will continue, if proper precaution is not taken. Carrying additional oxygen cylinders is a must and this should be done in advance. The temperature changes greatly and travellers should also be aware of this. However, if you choose us for this trip, everything becomes easier. The freezing months can pose a far bigger threat and that should be avoided at all costs.

The perfect time to take Lhasa – Ganden Monastery cycle tour

Tibet embraces every season fabulously, though the conditions are not favourable every time. Travellers and especially cyclists must understand the timing absolutely well. If the activity is done in a pleasant month instead of the harsh winter, the fun can increase manifold. The best time for cycling is from May to October because good weather and temparature. The other months can be targeted as well, but the safety issues become important in the hilly roads.

Getting the Tibet Travel Permit – How can we help?

Exploring Tibet is a fun activity, but Tibet travel permits matter greatly. Foreign travellers must fulfil the necessary travel guidelines to get in this region and we can help you from all sides. We make the process easier, by getting you the right documents at the right time.

What to pack for this cycle tour? – Bicycle Rent and Other Tips

Taking the most essential things can do the job here. The all-important ID card and travel permit is absolutely essential and it gets the first priority. Take a medium-sized backpack to put in your things and pack it with the right kind of warm clothes. Waist packs also come in handy, as they store many important things. This is a place where you will see high elevation, so oxygen should be there in abundance. Avoid getting sunburn by taking a good sun-screen cream or lotion and lastly don’t miss out on the medicines. Helmets and other cycling wear can be taken, as it is very essential. The bicycle can be rented easily and it is supplied by the tour operator itself. An important trip in this aspect would be to prepare for the changing weather. It can stay sunny or it can rain, so plan accordingly.

The challenges in Tibet are quite tough, but it will gift you an experience, which you will not forget in a long time. Cycling here is precious and it is an important aspect that strengthens Tibet’s tourism.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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