There’s no doubt that Cairns is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers in Australia and I can see why! Cairns has got a bit of everything: The world’s oldest rainforest, great nightlife, stunning beaches, heaps of adventure activities (it’s the adventure capital of Oz!) and a tropical climate to enjoy it all in! Cairns is also the gateway to the world’s largest reef (so large it’s visible from space!), the Great Barrier Reef!

Ultimate Travel legend Max has spent the last 10 days visiting Cairns to find out more about this cool little city up in Northern Queensland. Here’s what he has to say:

What was the highlight of your trip?

I would say the highlight of my trip was swimming with turtles on the Mackay & Udine reefs. I’d never seen turtles up close like that before and being able to swim with them was amazing! The reef I went to on the snorkel trip had so much marine life – it was awesome!


Swimming with a turtle in Cape tribulation

What do you think of Cairns as a city?

I love that cairns isn’t too big or too small. Everything is in walking distance and you have all the main shops, restaurants, bars and clubs right in the centre so you don’t miss out on anything. It’s got a real tropical feel to it too. The weather was amazing when I went which was such a nice change from the winter temps in Sydney! Also, at night hundreds of fruit bats fly over the city which was amazing to see. I’ve never seen anything like it so it was definitely memorable!


The beautiful lagoon in Cairns

How long did you spend in Cairns? Where did you stay?

In total I spent 7 days in Cairns. I stayed at Nomads Serpents which was great. It has a proper chilled out but sociable vibe to it. I spent my time at the hostel relaxing by the pool getting a tan and playing volley ball and table tennis. They have a bar right near the pool with amazing food so you can grab a beer and chat to the other backpackers too which was great.


Chilling at Nomads Serpent

Did you go anywhere else?

Yeah..I went on a 2 night trip to Cape tribulation which is about 2 hours drive from Cairns in the Daintree Rainforest. I love Cairns but it was great to get out of the city and see another part of Northern QLD. In Cape Trib, I stayed at Cape Trib Beach house which was incredible. It’s right on the beach (literally a 30 second walk!) and you have the option to stay in dorm rooms or private rooms. I was lucky enough to stay in their St Crispin accommodation – well worth the upgrade! The bar/restaurant at Beach House does amazing food too. It’s safe to say I ate well during my stay!!


The beach at Cape Tribulation

Did you do any activities in the Rainforest?

During the days I did Jungle Surfing (zip lining through the jungle!), horse riding on the beach and kayaking. I also went on a snorkel trip with Ocean Safaris which is when I got to swim with the turtle – that was such a great tour! I spent the evening in the Beach house restaurant eating calamari, steak and having a few drinks! After dinner the staff at Cape Trib beach house got a small fire going on the beach so I sat round chatting to other people on the tour. The view of the stars from the beach was incredible cause the sky was so clear!


Zip lining through the rainforest

Did you see any wildlife?

I spotted a few crocs on the Active Tropics Cape Trib tour! One of the biggest crocs, Scar face is around 85 years old!


Crocodile spotting in Cape tribulation

What else did you get up to in Cairns?

I did white water rafting, did a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands, went diving, chilled by the lagoon, went fishing and explored Cairns – it was an action packed, fun holiday!


White water rafting in Cairns

Your diving pics looks amazing. What was it like?

I did a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef with Deep Sea Divers. I booked on to do an Introductory dive as I had never dived before and I’d heard how amazing it is! All of the staff were really great and made everyone feel so comfortable. They ran through all of the safety aspects with us then showed us what to do before putting our gear on. We went down in groups of 3 or 4 with an instructor so I felt safe the whole time. Being underwater with all that wildlife was amazing. I met Wally, a massive Maori Wrasse, found Nemo and saw a reef shark! It was amazing – I can’t wait to go diving again!


Meeting the locals in the Great Barrier Reef

What is the nightlife like in Cairns for backpackers?

The nightlife in Cairns is as crazy as Sydney! The main bars I went to were Woolshed and Gilligans. I think Woolshed is a great bar to start out at then head to Gilligans which is more of a club. They had loads of drink specials too (between $5-$8) so it was a great night!


The beach in Cape Tribulation

Is Cairns good for backpackers on budget?

Yes, definitely! It’s a lot cheaper than Sydney. You can book a week in a dorm room at Nomads Cairns for $120! Food prices are about the same as other cities but everywhere had drink specials on so it all balanced out in the end.


Cairns is a beautiful city

Would you recommend other people to visit Cairns? How long do you think you would need?

I personally love Cairns and with there being so much you can do in the town it’s hard to get bored. Saying that, for me the highlights are on the trips outside of Cairns like the rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands. I’d say you’d need at least a week if you want to do Cairns properly and see other parts of Northern Queensland whilst you’re up there.If you can stay for longer than a week, you’ll definitely still find things to do..even if that just means chilling by the lagoon on the esplanade!

Where is next on your bucket list?

I’ve got a trip to the Northern territory with Topdeck booked later this year. I’m doing a trip to Kakadu and Litchfield national park and will get to spend some time in Darwin too. I went to Uluru last year and had a wicked time so I’m looking forward to seeing another part of the Northern Territory. I’ve heard amazing things about Kakadu NP and doing the tour with Topdeck will be awesome!


Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu are amazing to visit in Australia!

A massive thank you to Deep Sea Divers Den, Foaming Fury, Active Tropics, Waterfall Wanderers, Ocean Safari and Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours for having me on your tours (I had an awesome time!) & to Nomads Cairns and Cape Trib Beach House for giving me a place to rest my head after a fun day of activities!

Fancy a trip to Cairns? Get in touch with Max for suggestions and to book your trip/accommodation!

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If you are in Australia at the moment, you’ve probably heard State of Origin mentioned on the TV, in the news or in the pub.

Well, what is it?!

State of Origin is an annual series of rugby league games played between New South Wales and Queensland. They play three games a year in all, first to two wins the series, and New South Wales haven’t won a series in eight years….until now!

New South Wales beat Queensland in the first game at the end of May in Brisbane and completed a series win with a hard-fought win in Sydney three weeks ago. The teams will play the final game of the series in Brisbane today as New South Wales will go for their first whitewash in 14 years.

Now that the rugby league is out of the way, we can get down to the serious question – which state is better, New South Wales or Queensland?!

The Cities

Sydney certainly takes some beating. With the harbour as one of the most recognisable and beautiful places in the world, never mind just in Australia, New South Wales have an immediate advantage.

Brisbane is a great city, perfectly positioned on the coast. Close enough to great places like Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast it is probably Australia’s most underrated city but it can’t topple Sydney.

Cairns isn’t really a city, more of a big town, which is the same as other stops like  Newcastle, Townsville and the other bigger stops in both states.

You just can’t look past Sydney for this one though, whether it is Bondi or Newtown that takes your fancy, it is one of the best cities in the world to visit and to live in.

NSW 1 – 0 QLD.

The Beaches

Now it gets interesting.

New South Wales boasts one of the most famous beaches in the world in Bondi and some of the most beautiful coastline you’ll ever see.

The south coast of NSW, around Jervis Bay has some of the whitest sand you are ever likely to see and further north Byron Bay is an iconic stretch of surf known the world over.

If you want to talk beaches in Australia, the conversation has to include Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands. If you haven’t been (why the hell not?!) – close your eyes and think of paradise. That’s it.

Whitehaven has the world’s whitest sand (officially) and crystal blue waters that will leave you speechless. Queensland has much more than Whitehaven though.

The Sunshine Coast is an absolutely gorgeous stretch of coastline highlighted by Noosa. Magnetic Island has some seriously underrated beaches too, and the water is warm!

The jewel of northern Queensland has to be Mission Beach, an almost untouched stretch of sand that also happens to be one of the best places in Australia to sky-dive!

Sorry Bondi, Queensland takes this one.

NSW 1 – 1 QLD


Sydney Harbour crops up again here. the Bridge and Opera House are two of the most iconic landmarks in Australia. Sydney also has its fair share of other icons from the Sydney Cricket Group to the Westfield Tower.

Elsewhere in NSW, the Lighthouse at Byron Bay is the most easterly point of the continent and is an amazing sight to behold. The Blue Mountains, and their Three Sisters, are also a beautiful place for a few photographs. Not to forget the original ‘big thing’ – The Big Banana of Coffs Harbour!

Queensland has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty but not much of the man-made variety. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most famous landmarks in the world and stretches nearly the entire way along the Queensland coast.

Further north, the world’s oldest rainforest can be found as the Daintree skirts along the tropical coast north of Cairns.

The Q1 Tower in Gold Coast offers stunning views of the beach from one of the highest residential buildings in the world and further inland, the Glasshouse Mountains are a strange sight to behold.

Even with the Barrier Reef, the edge has to go to New South Wales. Sydney tips the scales while Byron and others make it a winner.

NSW 2 – 1 QLD

Party Scene

Another tough one to call. Queensland has Airlie Beach, set in paradise with more pubs, clubs and bars than you’ll know what to do with – Airlie is a great place to throw a few beers back. Once you’ve had your fun on a boat in the Whitsundays, your end of cruise party is the perfect opportunity to get a little bit messy!

Cairns is another underrated night out, thanks in large part to Gilligan’s – one of the best party hostels in Australia. Cairns is pretty small so it is really easy to get around and hit up a few bars on any night you please. There is always something going on.

Brisbane isn’t as famous as Sydney and Melbourne for its nightlife but has a good small bar scene with some decent cocktail bars.

As you’d expect, Sydney is a great night out. Whatever you’re after – a few quiet drinks, some cocktails or a full-blown night on the tiles – Sydney has you covered.

Outside of Sydney though, Byron Bay is the only really good place with a distinctly different feel than anywhere else in Australia. Advantage Queensland.

NSW 2 – 2 QLD

Cool Stuff To Do

The Great Barrier Reef has already been mentioned and it is an unbelievable place to visit. Whether you snorkel or dive, or just go out on a boat trip, the Great Barrier Reef is incredible.

While you are in North Queensland, why not get the pulse racing with a bungy, sky-dive or canyon swing?! Maybe even head inland for a look at the rodeo, a real outback experience!

Fraser Island and the Whitsundays are also definite must-sees. Whether you go for an overnight option or just a day trip, we would definitely recommend more than a day trip, neither can be missed.

In New South Wales, Byron Bay is the first stop from the north. As mentioned earlier, it has the most easterly point on the mainland and has a great culture and feel – thanks to the hippies! The surf is amazing too and, for some reason, the sunsets in Byron always seem to be a winner!

The northern coast of New South Wales is filled with amazing little beach towns, with gorgeous white sand and blue water. Port Macquarie and Forster are cool little towns that give you an idea of what small-town Australia is really like and both boast some beautiful beaches and outstanding coastal scenery.

Wine regions abound in New South Wales with the Hunter Valley the most famous, and easy to access from Sydney, but there is also Orange and Mudgee for the wine lovers.

Inland, the Western Plains Zoo (the big brother of Taronga in Sydney) gives a safari experience in Australia which is pretty awesome! You can stay in African inspired safari tents and wake up surrounded by giraffes, zebra and antelope which is amazing.

Then there is Sydney. With the Bridge Climb, Opera House tours, Darling Harbour, fireworks all the time and everything else you’ve already read about!

Further south and you are driving a less adventurous version of the Great Ocean Road on the south coast and you can even hit the slopes for a bit of skiing near the Victorian border!

Both Queensland and New South Wales offer such varied experiences that it is impossible to pick a winner in this one which means we’ve got a tie!

NSW 2 – 2 QLD (How very diplomatic of us!)

What state would be your winner? Does Queensland take the cake or New South Wales? What about outside of the State of Origin clash? Victoria or Western Australia take your fancy? Let us know in the comments section below!

So you’re thinking of coming to Australia – great! When you’ve finished your UltimateOz Sydney package, you may want to make your way up to Cairns (especially in Winter … that’s where the hot weather is!) You may be asking yourself, “What is there to do in Queensland?”  But, what you should be asking, is what isn’t there to do?! And the answer is simple – there’s not a lot that you can’t do in Queensland! Queensland offers some of the most beautiful things you could ever hope to see … and here is just a few of our favourites!

The Great Barrier Reef

Well, to begin with, we have one of the seven natural wonders of the world right on our doorstep! Whether you dive, snorkel or take a glass bottom boat, the Greta Barrier Reef will take your breath away. There’s more than 1200 miles for you to explore! Want the ultimate selfie? Snap yourself swimming with your new friends – there’s plenty of sea turtles, rays, tropical fish and you’ll probably spot the odd shark along the way too!

The Daintree Rainforest

About 100km north of Cairns, you will find the Daintree Rainforest waiting for you with lots of activities on offer. Fancy surfing through the jungle? Take a Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour and fly through the trees while sitting comfortably in a zip wire harness … the best seat in the house!

Or, if you fancy something a little bit closer to the ground, go croc spotting on a Daintree Wildlife River Cruise or take a walk through the forest at night to see the mysterious locals that only come out to play when the sun goes down.

You can camp, do a spot of off road driving, ride horses on the beach, kayak along the rivers … the possibilities are endless! Whatever you fancy doing, there’s something for everyone!

Atherton Tablelands

Remember Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ video? (No? Google it!) Right in the heart of the Atherton Tablelands is ‘that’ waterfall! Swim up to the waterfall and don’t forget to pose for a pic doing the famous hair flick at Millaa Millaa Falls!

And that’s not all you can do on this tour. Take a day tour around some of the most amazing spots in the area. From waterfalls to volcanic craters and lots of amazing scenery in between you’ll end the day with a huge beaming smile on your face!

Magnetic Island

Everyone who has been to ‘Maggie Island’ remembers their time on the island fondly! So much to do and see packed on to this island, you’ll wish you had an extra day … no matter how long you stay! Have you ever wanted to cuddle a koala? Or hold a baby crocodile? You can at Bungalow Bay Koala Village … if you’re really brave, you can do your own Bushtucker Trial! For those of you wanting a bit of action, there’s  watersport options galore or, if relaxing is your thing, pick a hammock on the beach and watch the world go by. You can take a stroll through the island markets, or head up to Horseshoe Bay to watch the sunset. Take the Forts Walk to see the sights (you might even spot a wild koala or two along the way!) Maggie Island can be as action packed or as chilled out as you like – you really do choose!


Been wondering what it would be like to sail a maxi boat around the Whitsunday Islands? Or have you been thinking it would be nice to live on a catamaran for 2 nights? Or would you rather sleep on a historical tallship? Whatever tickles your fancy, we can arrange it for you! Take your chosen vessel and visit some amazing spots that the Whitsunday Islands have to offer, including the amazing Whitehaven Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Snorkel or dive the reef, swim with the turtles and watch out for wild dolphins! Best of all, you’ll share this with your wonderful crew and come back to shore with lots of new friends!

Fraser Island

Three days on this island and you will never want to leave!  Swim in lakes so fresh, you can drink from them! Float down fast flowing creeks, visit the famous Champagne Pools (a natural jacuzzi anyone?), climb to the top of Indian’s Head and look out for rays, turtles and sharks, drive up the beach alongside wild dingoes … and that’s just one day! The 4wd tour allows you to experience some of the best off road driving on offer in Australia and you can camp in the only campground we’ve ever known that comes with its own nightclub! You’ll make friends for life on this trip and you’ll never get tired of reminiscing with them about Fraser Island!


About 300 days of the year are filled with sunshine in Brisbane, meaning you can take full advantage of all the wonderful things Queensland’s capital has on offer! Head to Southbank for Streets Beach, the only beach in Australia that can be found in the middle of the city. Hire a bike and cycle through the Botanic gardens, or take a free guided tour with the people who know the city best! If you’re on a budget, but you fancy seeing some live music, check out The City Sounds, Australia’s largest free live music program. Every week, you can find music to suit every taste, from Alternative to Reggae, Acoustic to Jazz.  Check out their Facebook Page. Once you’ve spent the day exploring, filled your belly in any of the huge number of restaurants/cafes on offer, get your gladrags on and sample the nightlife! From ‘Birdees’ in the Valley to ‘The Junction’ in Brisbane West or ‘5th Element’ in the West End, you’re guaranteed a great night out!

If you’re looking for things to do in Queensland and want to visit any of these places or do any of these things, let our Ultimate Oz team know and we can get it all arranged for you. From accommodation to travel to activities, we’ll help you sort out every last detail! Once you’ve done and seen all this, you really will leave thinking ‘There’s nothing like Australia!’ (That’s if you ever leave!)