26th Oct 2012 3:19am | By Joanna Tilley
One of the best ways to get into the spirit of the east coast’s backpacker party capital is to get the spirits into yourself
All I’d really wanted to do in Cairns was party. But with my feet bound together by a weathered towel and two men threatening me from either side, it appeared that would have to wait. No, I had not been kidnapped (although thanks for the concern), but was about to join the exclusive bungy jumping club (a club of sorts, but not really the club I had in mind).
Just 20 minutes ago I’d flippantly mentioned to a new friend in my hostel that I wouldn’t mind doing a bungy jump. Now here we were...
If only I’d known we were so close to one of the biggest bungy jumping sites in Oz I would have kept my big mouth shut. But it turns out that in Cairns you are never too far from the action. Whether you’re looking for adrenalin activities, retail therapy or just pure unadulterated drinking, Cairns will not let you down. Instead, it will insist you jump down. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuungyyyyyy...
Fortunately, it turns out there is nothing better to get you into the party spirit than a bungy jump. Driving back into Cairns, the bars and restaurants along the Esplanade were already full of people.
The small, compact town of Cairns has been designed with the traveller in mind, which means it is very easy to get around... from bar to bar that is. The thriving nightlife, high quality hostels and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef has made Cairns the fourth most visited place in Australia after Sydney, Melbourne and Bris-Vegas.
Another great thing about Cairns is how quickly a night can turn from civilised to civil disorder. My bungy jumping friend Anna and I started our evening in the sophisticated and upmarket setting of the Salt House. Listening to the calming sound of water features, we praised each other for our daredevil antics whilst sipping cocktails and gazing out at the boats bobbing in the Marina.
This was the calm before the storm. The refined part of the night was over and we were now women (okay, sluts) on a mission. One of the best places to drink (and hook up) in Cairns is Gilligan’s. It’s one of the biggest hostels in Australia and is always rammed with backpackers.
Luckily, our visit coincided with a live band and a foam party (one of those delightful gimmicks invented solely to see hard nipples poking through wet material). However, as we weren’t yet ready to sacrifice our make-up to the foam, we skirted past the shenanigans and headed for the bar.
A couple of Jager Bombs later, it was time to assess our surroundings (okay, fine, the boys). It’s amazing how the buzz of a hostel in Cairns and blurred vision can make a girl feel spoilt for choice. We sat down and started talking to a group of guys from Wales who were on their way to the Woolshed.
Now, the general rule goes: If you’ve been to Cairns, you’ve been to the Woolshed. This is the club where everyone clambers when the bars and pubs close. It is everything you’d expect from a backpacker-dominated establishment; cheap, filthy and fun.
I became an instant fan when I noticed that dancing on the tables wasn’t only allowed but seemed compulsory. The boys became fans as the Miss Backpacker competition entered its final stage (yes, another delightful gimmick invented solely to see hard nipples poking through wet material.) Cairns appeared to love hard nipples.
After hours of table dancing, slippery nipple swallowing and tonsil tennis with... hmmm (let me get back to you on this one), we were all in need of a relaxing bubble bath. But come on, it’s Cairns! So instead we opted for a filthy foam party.
Even hangovers are good in Cairns. Behind every corner lurks a café or restaurant ready to ply you with a big, grease-dripping breakfast. The year-round sunshine also helps you to sweat out excess alcohol. And if food and sun doesn’t do the trick, the lagoon will. Arriving at the lagoon, we quickly realised this was the day-time social hub of Cairns. If you didn’t get the boy or girl you fancied the night before, they will more than likely be topless around the pool.
In fact, Cairns values a person’s right to be topless so highly that in 2003 Mayor Kevin Byrne declared that topless sunbathing was to be permitted by the lagoon, “as the area is a gathering point for people from around the world who may wish to do so”. Finally, a sensible politician.
Following a refreshing dip in the water, I was reenergised and ready for some retail therapy. Obviously I needed to find some “razzle-dazzle” to outshine my rivals on my return to the Woolshed. The best place to purchase “razzle-dazzle” in Cairns is in the Cairns Central shopping complex.
I busied myself in Bra N Things in pursuit of the ultimate cleavage. Looking busty, I was on my way to look at some Aboriginal Art. With a large population of Aboriginal people in Cairns, the town proudly displays native, dotted masterpieces in a number of shops.
In Orchid Plaza, I stumbled upon a small shop called Yaram Arts run by George and his beautiful wife Yaram. After talking to them about my trip around Oz (minus some details), I bought a couple of pieces for my family back home.
In Cairns, there can be a thin line between ending a night in the arms of a tall, handsome stranger or at the bottom of the lagoon. This thin line, for me, is quite often a pizza. So in an attempt to line our stomachs, we headed to Bella Vista at the Marina. It turned out to be a great choice as the pizzas were huge and very, very cheap. We enjoyed slice after slice whilst gazing at the views of Trinity Bay.
After a couple of sambuca shots, I was ready for my second installment of Gilligan’s and Woolshed action. I often wonder where my new Wonderbra ended up that night.