It’s funny how you can feel lonely in a such a beautiful place. You would think it ought to be impossible to feel down when you are surrounded by the incredible scenery and chill vibe of Cairns. I think I’ve found the perfect remedy though. Get up early and watch the sunrise.
In this post I am writing about what I’ve been up to in Cairns (North Queensland) and my first experience dealing with feeling overwhelmed and lonely while travelling.
Activities in Cairns
Not what I was expecting to do either. It is very tidal here and during the day there are mudflats extending miles towards the ocean. This may mean no golden beaches but these mudflats are an essential habitat for the 200 species of birds that have been recorded here.
The mudflats are an extremely important landing spot for the birds on their migratory routes, some flying thousands of kilometres. Disturbing a bird is considered a serious offence, because of how significant any loss of energy is in their chances of surviving their trip.
Recently there has been an increasing build up of sand in this region. This is causing some concern that the mudflats might be buried. The birds that land here would no longer be able to fuel up to continue their long flights.
Walking and fitness
The Esplanade is the hub of Cairns and a beautiful stroll with the mudflats on one side and parks and cafes on the other. You can walk for a good 25 minutes along here until you reach dense forest. Honestly photos of this part of the bay are like something from Treasure Island.
Waking up at 6.00 am seems crazy, but here it is very popular. Their are free fitness events every morning and afternoon on the esplanade. I tried the yoga but gave in because it was orientated for a slightly older audience. It seemed very popular though, at least 30 people turned up.
If you feel like an early morning swim – unfortunately there are saltwater crocodiles in this water. Much safer is the large pool on the Esplanade, named the lagoon. Brilliant for cooling off, I wouldn’t say it’s ideal for swimming lengths. You probably could early before it gets busy.
The tropical rainforest of North Queensland is the world’s oldest; 80 million years older than the Amazon! I can’t get my head around how incredible this is. It is a real story of survival. This rainforest outlasted the dinosaurs, lets hope it can outlast us.
I took the Uncle Brian’s waterfalls tour to the rainforest covered Atherton Tablelands. Our tour took us through Australia’s wettest town, Babinda into the rainforest covered Mountains of Queensland. There are more species in 1 square km here than across the whole of Europe.
The vibe on our bus was really chilled, but we still handed out instruments and sang along to the tunes. The guide pulled out a bubble machine. I swear this thing was making hundreds of bubbles a minute. Just a really nice atmosphere.
The guides are really knowledgeable, many have lived in Australia a long time and have been doing this job for years. Our guide was particularly interested in aboriginal culture. The aboriginals educate through the telling of absolutely beautiful stories.
Visit the reef
As long as you can brave the sea sickness on the way out, this is the perfect opportunity to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I didn’t do this, but everyone I met in the hostel has, and says it remains a brilliant spectacle. One girl told me she saw turtles, dolphins and sharks on the same day!
The Great Barrier Reef covers millions of ha. So despite the many boats that go out, you are likely to have only one per section of reef at any given time.
What to do In town
Art galleries and markets
Google art galleries in Cairns and you have so many to choose from. The main Cairns Art gallery is just two minutes from the Esplanade. I loved the store Ancient Journeys, which focused heavily on aboriginal art.
Cairns has three main markets:
- The Esplanade Markets are a small market with plenty of handmade products and street food, but only open Saturdays 8am to 4pm
- Rusty’s Markets on Grafton street are open from 5am to 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays and until 3pm on Sundays. Here is where you can stock up on your cheap fruit and vegetables.
- Cairns Night Markets are open 4.30pm to 11pm every day. There are many places offering beauty and massage treatments here. It is also the place to go for Asian street food.
Night life and atmosphere
The cafes and restaurants just across from the Esplanade come alive at night. I could walk from my hostel straight into the middle of a hub of people. The Night Markets also attract many people to this part of town. I happen to be here during the Cairns arts and culture festival (23rd August – 1 September). There are lots of art illuminations and music evenings happening.
So how can I be feeling lonely in cairns?
After the rainforest tour I arrived back at the hostel and just felt… down. I had an amazing day, but then everyone leaves the bus and goes their separate ways. I felt a bit alone. This is exacerbated by it being quiet season and fewer solo travellers than normal. There are also a lot of long termers.
At first on walking into a hostel it can feel like no-one is interested in making any new friends. Most long termers already have solid friendship groups and the hostel social circles can appear closed off. Don’t give up chatting to people, and eventually you will link up with other short term guests.
Until I find a job and stay in one place for a prolonged period, I realise I will be meeting people frequently, but not necessarily making firm friends. This is definitely a benefit of farm work. I’ve heard many stories of people finishing on the farms and then road-tripping Australia together.
It’s impossible to stay down in a place so beautiful though. Get up early, walk the esplanade, watch the sunrise and fix yourself a hearty breakfast. Then you’ll be feeling right as rain!