Living the Backpacker’s Dream
Once in a family trip to Cagayan de Oro, I saw five individuals in a casual wear of shirt, jeans and comfy rubber shoes. At first glance, they looked like an ordinary group of tourists who wanted to visit and enjoy the sites. However, my opinion changed when I saw their heavy bags filled with, what seemed like, a month’s load of belongings.
My brother told me those individuals were backpackers who travelled to different places with only their backpacks. Nowadays, backpacking has become the easiest and hassle-free way of travelling. By bringing only the most essential things, one can now hop from one place to another. Not only is it easy, you’ll also have a fun time meeting fellow travellers along the way. Many cities nowadays cater to backpackers around the world. One is the city of Cairns in Queensland, Australia.
Founded in 1876, the city of Cairns was named after William Wellington Cairns, the former governor of Queensland. Situated at the far north region of Queensland, the metropolis is known not only as the starting point of tourists who want to visit the Great Barrier Reef, but also for various landmarks and water sceneries that are unique and exceptional in so many ways.
Be one with nature as you cover the trail path to the heart of Kuranda Rainforest. Find peace and serenity as you hear the rush of Davies Creek and Barron Falls. Or watch the breath-taking sunset at Cairns Marina and feel the fresh breeze that touches your skin.
The good news is that it does not stop there. There are far a lot of places still waiting to be uncovered. Go the long way and unravel Cairns little by little.
The One with Meeting People First stop:
Global Palace. Anyone can enjoy their stay at this hostel that offers not only affordable rooms but also tours and recreational activities such as scuba diving, white water rafting and skydiving. Guests can mingle with fellow travellers as the hostel brings in a friendly vibe for sharing stories about once-in-a-lifetime adventures. The area also invites you to experience the night life with its nearby bars.
Among the most popular are the Rattlen‘n Hum Bar & Grill, P.J. O’Brien’s Irish Pub, The Pier Bar and Paddy’s Irish Pub. Aside from Central Cairns, Global Palace also has branches in Cairns Waterfront, Port Douglas and Airlie Beach. Backpackers need not to worry as the hostel is accessible anywhere in the city.
A few rides from the Global Palace is the Cairns War Memorial. Established in the year 1972, the cenotaph’s distinct features are the statue of a digger that symbolizes the city locals as well as the names of the 142 individuals who died for freedom during the World War I.
Another feature is the painted clock faces set at exactly 4:28AM, the same time the ANZAC forces invaded the city on April 25, 1915. Walking around the esplanade, one can see the 25-pound artillery piece and the 5-inch breech-loading gun set up at the north and south of the area respectively. The Memorial Flame, an artwork created in commemoration of the war heroes, located at the Memorial Garden is also a must see.
The One with the Great
A trip to Cairns is not complete without seeing the world’s largest coral reef system—the Great Barrier Reef. Although discovered in 1768 by Louis de Bougainville during his expedition, it was Lieutenant James Cook who first landed in the area in June 11, 1770 aboard the HM Bark Endeavour.
Resting in the depths of the Coral Sea, the Great Barrier Reef has long been part of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well as the World Heritage Site since 1981. It is said that the area’s 2,900 individual reefs extending over an estimated square meters of 133,000 is made only by tiny living organisms called the coral polyps. Approximately 900 islands also surround the area.
Maintaining an opulent biodiversity, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is responsible for meticulously preserving its sensational beauty from human and non-human threat. They are also responsible for the area’s underwater creatures; among them are the 1,500 fish species, 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises including the dwarf Minke whale and the Humpback whale, 125 species of sharks, stingrays and chimaeras, 9 species of seahorses, 15 species of sea grass, 5,000 species of mollusc and a whole lot more. They also preserve the 215 species of birds that migrate to the area every season as well as the estimated 2,195 species of plants that grow from each of the Great Barrier Reef’s islands.
At present, the area is open for yacht trips and cruises on glass-bottomed boats offering its visitors a view of the underwater sceneries without having to dive. Moreover, island hopping, snorkelling and scuba diving are also famous recreational activities among tourists. In the year 2010, Google launched the Google Underwater Street View that allowed people to see a three-dimensional look of the Great Barrier Reef through their mobile devices.
The One with the Beach
Among the islands surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, the Green Island probably is the most visited. With its view of surrounding coral reefs, it is no wonder the island has more visitors especially during the summer season. First known as Dabuukji meaning “the place of the hole in the nose”, it was actually Lieutenant James Cook who named the area Green Island in honor of Charles Green, an astronomer who at that time was on board the HM Bark Endeavour. With a coral cay reachable through a 45-minute catamaran ride, island visitors can relax and have the best time of their life in the Green Island Reef Resort which opened in the year 1994. The island also has an underwater observatory built in 1954 along with a helipad.
Aside from Green Island, Cairns also has other beachfronts with endless activities for visitors. One is Yorkeys Knob known for its sandbar where visitors can walk for dozens of metres out of the shoreline during low tide. Another beach spot is the Palm Cove famous for having the most pristine waters of all beaches in the city. While Palm Cove is also popular for its fishing platform, the Ellis Beach on the other hand is well known for those individuals who want a little privacy from overcrowded beach areas. Last but certainly not the least is the Trinity Beach popular for being a residential beach. Many travellers can still enjoy its many accommodations, activities and panoramic views.
The One in Town Found along the Cape York Peninsula, Cooktown was first established when Lieutenant James Cook discovered the area and stayed for 48 days to repair the HM Bark Endeavour after its devastating landing on the reefs of Cape Tribulation.
Because of this historic event, locals of the area annually celebrate his expedition through a full costume re-enactment, parades and other tribal events. Among the best places one can visit in Cooktown are the Cooktown Museum which houses significant relics such as cannons and anchors taken from the HM Bark Endeavour, journal entries and artefacts depicting the town’s endemic culture, the Grassy Hill famous as the same hill climbed by James Cook in search of a passage out of the reefs and now offers a 360-degree view of the whole island, and the Cook Shire Hall, an edifice constructed in 1907 and is now part of the town’s heritage sites.
Moreover, enjoy a trail hike as you climb and explore Mount Cook’s summit or explore the wildlife in the Black Mountain once known as Kalkajaka meaning “place of spear”. A variety of underwater activities, on the other hand, is what Lizard Island is known for. Enjoy snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, croc-spotting, bird watching and a whole lot more as you stay in the island for a day or two.
The One in Cairns
Travelling comes in many forms and backpacking is just one of them. But what matters the most is having the chance to enter a city and unravel its nooks and crannies.
As you travel to Cairns, take the opportunity to not only journey through its many landmarks but also meet fellow travellers and exchange different stories of your adventures. Truly living the dream of discovering places is a mission that all backpackers need to uphold.