Cairns is perfectly set up for the hordes of backpackers who descend on the city every year. It has a massive hostel infrastructure and lots of cheap places to eat making it an economical place to spend some time. Although the city does not have a substantial amount of attractions in itself, it does act as the most popular jumping off point to the Great Barrier Reef – an attraction that beats them all, and one which backpackers come here for and take full advantage of. Many travellers set aside several days or weeks to attain their dive certification here, although you can take any of the numerous day trips to the reef and join an introductory dive, which is just as awe-inspiring.
The city has a relaxed ambience, but at night the young and restless backpacker crowd converges on the city centre, and there is no shortage of partying and debauchery well into the morning. Pubs, bars and nightclubs, however casual, still inspire a rowdy scene. It is a good idea to spend a few nights in one of the hostels known for its social aspect, but move to one of the more low-key places if you are planning a trip in the morning and need a good night’s sleep. The vast range of hostels makes this easy to do. A good place to refresh in the daytime is the huge swimming lagoon just off the Esplanade.
Local buses run by Sunbus operate from the Lake Street Transit Centre in City Place with many routes operating 24 hours. Fares start at $2.40 but longer trips can cost as much as $8.20.