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 northeast coast of the state of Queensland. Known as the place where the rainforest meets the reef, the area provides many activities for adventurous traveller. With its warm climate and laid-back vibe, the city is an excellent base to explore Australia’s tropical north.
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 ecosystem. The only way to experience the reef for the adventurous traveler 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 seven 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!
Brush up on your macro photography skills at Steve Bommie where you’ll spot nudibranchs, frogfish, 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 submerge 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. You must opt for the four or seven-day trip to experience the shark feed. Prices start at AUD 1600 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 to the ship. Averaging three dives a day 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 runoff from the rainforest and mountain ranges surrounding Cairns provides several significant 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 wake-up call, and ‘Stair Case’ a nail-biting drop, the Tully makes for a first-rate adventure from your base in Cairns.
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 a collection and return to your accommodation, a lunchtime BBQ, and five hour rafting experience for AUD 195
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 a commission, and they often give extra discounts to secure a sale.
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 the ‘No Fear’ point, the highest part of the cliff face from which you can launch yourself into the water below.
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 kilometers 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 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 the car rental and fuel.
Local Secret Adventure in Cairns
Suppose you’ve spent your day laid by the lagoon and require something to get your blood pumping pop down to the esplanade for an evening exercise class. The best part about this program is that all the types are accessible. All you need to do is arrive at the esplanade in the city’s center equipped with the motivation to burn some calories, and away you go.
Choose from yoga, pilates, beach volleyball, aqua aerobics, boot camp, and Zumba, and get that booty in shape for free.
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 from December to March. If visiting during this time, be vigilant about applying sunscreen, wearing a hat, and always carrying water.
The reason I love Cairns for adventure is that…
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 opportunities 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 an excellent beer and a sea view are just what you need after a day of adventure.
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.
Medieval Towns with German Castles Near Munich & Frankfurt
Our favorite castles in Germany near Frankfurt and Munich:
We were crazy enough to visit Neuschwanstein Castle on a public holiday. This meant that along with all the Asian tourists, there were an awful lot of Germans. Plus, even though we arrived by 11 am, the soonest tickets we could buy were for the German tour at 2.30 pm, as the terms in English were sold out until 4 pm. So, if you don’t have German friends at hand to translate the tour for you, we recommend booking in advance online. The castle was impressive, and the time was undoubtedly fascinating! Don’t worry, I won’t spill the beans, but the manmade Grotto room made my jaw drop!
Mespelbrunn Castle is located on a pond between Frankfurt and Wurzburg. Unfortunately, we arrived 30 minutes after its closing time of 5 pm, but it looked cool from behind the fence!
Lichtenstein Castle is located on a clifftop near Stuttgart and costs 6 euros per person for a tour in German; however, they did give us a very informative written guide in English. This castle is small compared to Hohenzollern castle, but its story is fascinating. Tanks shelled it in World War II, and today you can still see the cracked mirror from where a small fragment of a tank grenade ricocheted!
Hohenzollern Castle is not too far from Lichtenstein Castle. It is located on a hilltop near Hechingen, and we enjoyed the guided tour. Along with getting to wear GIANT slippers, make sure you explore the casemates and secret passages. One sign made me want to learn more. It read, “Exactly where these steps lead to is unknown. More casemates and secret passageways are likely waiting to be discovered in the heart of the mountain”!
Heidelberg Castle was a lot larger than we expected! Unfortunately, we had spent far too much time at the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, so we did not have time to explore this castle. But if we get the chance, we will explore the town and its castle next time in Germany.
On our drive from Munich to Frankfurt, we also loved:
The beer garden at Andechs Monastery was just like Oktoberfest but amongst trees and more family-friendly. The beer was cheaper, and the food was great, including the giant pork knuckle, which Moss could not finish. It was also fun walking up multiple flights of stairs to the tower’s very top.
Three hours in Rothenburg was not enough to explore this wonderful medieval town! We recommend getting your hands on a city map from the tourist information office. We enjoyed Roder Gate, walking along the wall and exploring the 17th-century spital bastion, plus Moss lost me in the Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas shop for over half an hour, and I didn’t even buy anything!
The average person would Google Munich to Frankfurt and see that it only takes about 3 ½ hours depending on how fast you wish to drive on the autobahn! However, we are NOT typical. We took one look at train prices and decided that hiring a car wouldn’t cost too much more.
We aren’t going to tell you our exact route. Still, after surviving Oktoberfest in Munich, we did a giant zigzag to see as many castles and medieval towns as possible. So to save you doing so much driving, we have picked our favorite cities and castles. First of all, ‘Ausfahrt’ is not a destination accessible from every off-ramp! It means ‘Exit’! Another word of wisdom to keep in mind is that the autobahns with speed limits do have speed cameras… and the flash is blinding!
Running with the Bulls Video
Our shaky Running with the Bulls Video footage from the Festival de San Fermin in 2012. Experience it first hand in Pamplona. Enjoy.
We recently wrote about our life or death experience of Running with the Bulls this year at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. On that run, I carried along with our GoPro video camera and tried to shoot some footage for our running with the video of the bull.
All our travel video shooting techniques went out the window when the bulls’ hooves started to shake the ground beneath our feet.
Once we had lined up for the running with the bulls, there was no escape from it as we were walled in by apartment blocks, shopfront windows, and 3-meter high wooden barriers packed with photographers along the entire length. At one end lay the relative safety of the bull ring pulsating with the cheers of the crowd who were still partying from the night before. Behind me, a dozen wild bulls pawed the stony ground looking for freedom.
Unfortunately, I was standing in their path.
What we ended up with is below. However, I think what we filmed for our running with the bull video captures the chaos, craziness, and complete madness a lot better than if I had stood my ground.
Enjoy it and watch for the guy that nearly gets trampled to death near the beginning!
Running with the Bulls Video
Would you ever consider running with the bulls?
While we are very aware that not all people agree that the San Fermin Festival should be allowed to go ahead mainly due to animal cruelty, we think there are two sides to every story. We wrote a post about the controversy surrounding Bullfighting in Spain and the Festival de San Fermin.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the Festival de San Fermin and whether you would ever consider running with the bulls.
Outdoor Activities in Bangkok – Adventure City Guide
Find out how you can explore the streets, canals and local markets within minutes of Bangkok with our Outdoor Activities in Bangkok Adventure City Guide.
Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Bangkok?
Why visit Bangkok for adventure?
Bangkok is one of the world’s largest metropolises and a gateway for most of the world to access the rest of South East Asia. With numbers surpassing 14 million people in the Greater Bangkok Region, this is no small player in the world’s super-cities. Of course, having such a long history with foreign visitors, the city has become incredibly established in the world’s tourist sector.
This has allowed it to grow many facets of adventurous activities – making access to something for everyone!
Outdoor Activities in Bangkok
Exploring the Klongs
Klongs are canals that used to feed the entire city with life-giving water, branched off from the city’s main artery – the Chao Phraya River. Today, the locals wouldn’t drink the water if you paid them, but there is still a fascinating life along the Klongs’ banks. There is so much to explore, from floating markets to old houses on stilts, and it gives insight into this ancient way of life!
What’s it cost, and how to get to the Klongs?
You can usually arrange the Klongs from the pier “Saphan Taksin” along the Chao Phraya River. This is conveniently a stop on the Skytrain, making it very easy to access. Usually, you will be renting the entire boat for the day (about 1000 THB, or USD 35) and not paying a per-person rate. So if you can find a few people to go with, the price will drop significantly per person.
Rickshaw City Tours
If you’ve never been to Asia before, Rickshaws are one of the most fun ways to get around. Although they can often be a little more expensive than metered taxis, you get an experience (and a view) that is unparalleled, especially in the busy streets of Bangkok.
What’s it cost?
Occasionally, you can even haggle a deal for a city tour for next to nothing (50-100 THB or $1.50-3 USD), as long as you visit a couple of affiliated ‘custom suit tailors’ throughout the day, as they’ll get a kickback from the shops just for bringing you there… No purchase is necessary.
You can often find Tuk Tuk drivers willing to do this standing along the perimeter of the Kings’ Palace. It may take a few attempts of asking for a ‘special city tour,’ but you will be bound to find someone ready for a cut of this business.
Local Secret Spot
Though most people wouldn’t consider going to a market an adventure, they probably have never experienced the likes of Chatuchak (also known as JJs). This is one of SE Asia’s LARGEST outdoor markets. It’s so prominent that you can find maps of the market to help navigate. It’s roughly the size of 4 city blocks and is divided into various sections.
You’ll find everything under the sun here, from clothing to handicrafts, food, mobile phones, and even puppies and other cute critters for sale!! It’s bonkers. If it gets too much for you, you can take a break in one of Bangkok’s most famous parks (Chatuchak park), located next to the market.
How to get there?
You can get here via Skytrain (BTS), subway (MRT), taxi, bus, you name it – it’s very accessible! But it’s only open on weekends, from about dawn until 5 or 6 pm at its peak. Some shops stay open longer, but most will be closed by dusk. It’s free entry and a perfect place to buy ANY souvenirs at the end of your time in Thailand.
Suppose you can coordinate to be here on the weekend. I generally hate shopping for ‘stuff,’ but I love this market and its energy!
Best time of the year to visit Bangkok for adventure?
Bangkok is in the tropics and quite close to the Equator. Of course, this means it’s hot on a year-round basis.
It’s considered the rainy season from May to October, though showers can happen at any time of the year. This is generally a less busy time for tourists, though the rains are not quite as bad as expected and often only last 30 mins-1 hour, cooling the city’s heart. Peak season is in December-January when temperatures are at their most astounding ad driest… though it’s still pretty hot!
And if Bangkok isn’t to your taste, the luxury Koh Samui will be. Endless sandy beach, beautiful clear waters, and nightlife that could be lived in forever. The luxury rental properties are stunning, and we recommend Tempston Luxury villa rentals.
Finally, the reason I love Bangkok for adventure is that…
It’s never-ending. This city is SO BIG that you could get lost in a new neighborhood almost every day. Single. Day. And still find new, exciting things to explore. On my list for the upcoming weeks, I’ve got the Scala Cinema, the Thai Air Force Museum, Papaya Vintage Shop, and the Erawan Museum – to name a few. Every time I explore one place, I learn of 3 more!!
From a young age, Ian was always a wanderer. He’s since travelled to all 7 continents, and has spent the majority of his life pursuing this passion. You can follow him in his off-the-beaten-path adventures and discoveries on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and his travel blog Where Sidewalks End.
Have you been to Bangkok? What were your favorite outdoor activities in Bangkok?
Meet Cole and Adela
We 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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