Cairns and tropical north Queensland

Cairns: Where NOT to go

Cairns Insider
Avoid the Vertigo Bar in the casino complex (Photo: Tourism Queensland)
Hate "meat-markets"? Avoid the Vertigo Bar in the casino complex
"Ask a local where they love to go for good Cairns food and they will tell you the Naked Nut on Collins Avenue for lunch and dinner."
Cairns Insider

Don't waste your time when you're on holiday in Cairns and tropical north Queensland. Find out the over-hyped spots to avoid (and where to go instead).

Cairns is the fastest growing regional centre in the country and a beautiful, safe place generally speaking. It possesses a multinational mix of local and visiting Aussies and international tourists from around the world. It is an international port situated at the foot of the vast Cape York wilderness and as such attracts all types of people — from lovely dedicated residents to the world’s escapees. Everyone who comes to Cairns brings along their take on how life in the tropics should be lived and in this multinational mix there are some pretty disparate attitudes about personal safety.

Don’t walk alone late at night or in the early hours whether you’re male or female. Share a cab from the club —or walk in a big group with someone sober enough to respond to emergency. Carry your mobile phone and file the number of your accommodation. Avoid riding a bicycle alone after midnight anywhere and always wear reflective clothing and have a light a night. Just act as if the same miniscule percentage of low life scum in your hometown is in our hometown.

The number of restaurants along the Cairns waterfront continues to grow offering an amazing array of international cuisine combined with supreme views of sky, water and emerald green mountains. Try the Salt House premierely positioned and designed as the ultimate in cool in NQ building — a big beautiful roof with cantilevered decks over the Inlet with charming nooks and crannies. View makes the experience as service and food is average.

For those who like a crowded and not attractive try the Esplanade strip. Don’t expect gourmet food or the finest wines and service is nine out of ten visa holding backpackers.

Ask a local where they love to go for good Cairns food and they will tell you the Naked Nut on Collins Avenue for lunch and dinner (try the crispy Atlantic salmon). For Thai try the Thai Orchid Spicy in Freshwater (where the Coconut Chicken is great and the Pad Thai authentic). Locals like to party on weekends and siesta on Monday and Tuesday nights, so bookings in the burbs are essential.

Everyone has their idea of what nightlife is all about, but, know that in Cairns most of it is dedicated to the young backpack totting lifestyle. Very little is on offer for the slightly sedate, sleek or classy. Try the Court House Hotel on Abbot St for a taste of regional sophistication in a heritage building. Avoid Gilligans on Grafton and the Wool Shed on Shield St unless you are into drunk as skunk youngsters who argue and jostle with each other and the bouncers. The Pier on the Marina is home to the Pier Bar and Grill and Bella Vista, both popular with young and old but forget it if you are after quiet conversation at a Sunday session. The people partying noise level is deafening on the weekend — mellower for sweet talk on a week night.

A trip to Cairns is indeed incomplete if you miss seeing the Great Barrier Reef, but Cairns can be a windy place with SE blustering on shore anywhere from 15-30knots in the winter months. September — March is the best bet for calmer weather. And if your tummy has not got sea legs and you happen to visit in windy weather try a shorter trip to Green or Fitzroy Islands where with you can spend most of the time with your feet mostly planted on terra firma and can snorkel on reef just off shore for short periods. Or if just can’t miss the most glorious underwater world on the face of the earth travel to the reef on a company that uses catamarans. Reef Magic Cruises is locally owned and uses fast stable cats taking you straight to their all weather Marine World platform. Dive or snorkel from here and if you a treat fly in one of the companies helicopters. The Reef is from the air is a heavenly experience.

Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.

Next: Near the beaten track

User comments
have just finished working in cairns, it doesnt take long to work out what is the best stuff. Grafton Street has lots of great places to eat, breakfast is big. Rustys markets is still best to buy mangoes, tomatoes and bananas or direct from the growers. something special is the cairns hot air balloon rides, it's pretty amazing to see 9 balloons flying over the atherton tablelands. port douglas has the best arty market but only between 7am to 11.45 (they always pack up early) and has the best crafty markets. finally, definitely eat asian food in cairns, the sushimi is great, the chinese, thai, indian, japanese especially is al v high quality. if you want to see where the locals go, look for people without sun tans! the locals never sunbake.
Such a great article about Cairns -we are moving up next year and thanks for letting everyone know its not the best idea walking home alone after a big night. Have seen it first hand .. shame for now -but good will prevail. thanks again