Cairns has more free things for backpackers to do than meets the eye. Check out the following which you can do without a car:•Chill out or cool off at the lagoon•Have a BBQ with some room mates at the Esplanade•Do the red arrow rainforest walk•Visit the Botanic Gardens area and grab a chocolate waffle•Participate in some free fitness classes at the Esplanade or just jump on a free fitness machine.•See the bats•Take a skateboard down to the skatepark.•Join in on some free volleyball at the ‘Nade.•Catch a bus and head down to a beachThe lagoon is basically a free swimming pool for anyone to use, but it is surrounded by sand and grass and has a great view of the ocean. Many backpackers love to spend all day sunbaking on the grass with their favourite book, perhaps moving under a tree for a bit of a nap.The bbq areas (and there are 12 of them) are all free so why not take some mates, grab some meat on the way through and spend a fun afternoon on the Esplanade. You will of course need your own cutlery etc. Right in the heart of the city you can see thousands of fruit bats (spectacled flying foxes) , next to the library on Aplin st. In the daytime they just hang from the trees not doing too much (look hard though and you may see babys suckling on their mothers-look in the armpit area of the adults). In the evening they all wake up ready for their nightly forage for fruit, pollen and the like and that is when you can see them making all sorts of caucus as they ready themselves. Then as dusk sets it is quite a sight as they fly off to their feeding areas. See the Bats Conservation websitefor more info. If you find any injured bats on the ground DO NOT TOUCH- they can carry transmittable and very serious diseases-instead call the BAT Rescue hotline on : 0488 228 134.There is a range of free fitness classes on at the Esplanade such as boxing, yoga, pilates, aqua-aerobics, zumba and beach volleyball. See the Cairns Esplanade Websitefor more details. As well there are several fitness stations on the esplanade with various machines for you to show off your bulging muscles and appeal to other backpackers. Head along to the volleyball court on the ‘Nade anyday in the late afternoon and join in on some free volleyball. There are always lots of backpackers playing and it is easy to join in. Not far from the volleyball courts is the skatepark. Free of course, you just need to BYO skateboard or a bmx bike. Even if you don’t skate it is good fun just to hang around and watch. The Botanic Gardens is next to the Red Arrow Walk and backpackers often do both in the same day. After doing a leisurely circuit of the gardens (an hour or 2), you can grab lunch or just a coffee at the Cafe.The Red Arrow Walk is very close to the Cairns Botanic Gardens, about 3 kms from the city centre (easily accessible by bus) and is a steep rainforest walk that takes about an hour return. From the top you can see Green Island on a fine day, and if you have the energy you can keep going from the top to complete the Blue Arrow Walk (altogether about 3 hours).From the Lake street side of Woolworths supermarket in City Place you can catch a public bus to one of the many beaches. All the stops are sign posted, but the most popular beaches are Palm Cove, Trinity Beach and Holloways Beach. A bus will set you back between $6 and $12 return. See the Sunbus website for timetables and bus routes.
Although there is lots you can do without a car, you can do of course even more if you have one:•Have a swim at Crystal Cascades•Drive to Port Douglas for the day•Do a lap of the waterfalls circuit•Drive up to Cape Tribulation•Drive to Lake MorrisJust a 30 minute drive from Cairns, Crystal Cascades is a crystal clear river in the rainforest where you can spend all day swimming and just chillaxing. An hour north of Cairns is Port Douglas, with it’s great beach and trendy coffee shops. Just 10 minutes past Port Douglas is Mossman Gorge, another rainforest where you can go swimming or just walk around admiring the trees.You need a whole day to do the waterfalls and lakes circuit up at the Atherton Tablelands, but it is definitely worth doing. Best way is up the Gillies Range and down the Palmerston Highway. A good 3 hours drive away (but a beautiful drive) is Cape Tribulation in the Daintree National Park. The best beaches in Australia and some fantastic rainforest boardwalks will want you to stay overnight (which you can easily do by staying in one of the backpackers there).Well known by locals but not so much by backpackers is Lake Morris, about 1 hour away. On the way is the best lookout of Cairns, very romantic at night. Lake Morris itself is a large dam set in the rainforest, and has a great cafe where you can drink your cuppa and just mellow.