Considered the gateway to both Queensland's tropical north and the famous Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a heavy-hitter on the Australian tourist trail. The city, especially the Esplanade, is bustling with backpacker bars, restaurants and cafés. The friendly locals and the generally relaxed atmosphere makes you want to stay here longer than you anticipated.
One of the main reasons travellers make their way to Cairns is its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef – the world's largest coral reef system and one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The reef is famous for its plethora of marine species and snorkelling and diving opportunities, which can all be organised from tour agencies, resorts and the three different marinas in town. For something a bit different, head to the north of the city and visit the Daintree Rainforest – one of the oldest rainforests on Earth and a place that David Attenborough called the 'the most extraordinary place on Earth'. Other sites to visit include Barron Falls, the Rainforestation Nature Park and Fitzroy Island.
The nightlife in Cairns is fun, relaxed and unpretentious, and you'll find many spots to enjoy it – whether that's watching the sun setting from a waterfront bar on the Esplanade or dancing the night away in an energetic backpackers hub. For the former, head to the Salt House or the Vine Room; for the latter, Gilligan's or the Woolshed are the places to be.