Being Broke in Cairns

Northern Queensland! The land of crocs and spiders and dinosaurs known as Casowarys, I guess crocs are dinosaurs too, but seriously, these birds are crazy looking.

Look at its dinosaur face and feet….and apparently the giant pile of poo that I didn’t notice while taking the photo.

I’m actually going to be very honest, Cairns is a little boring if you don’t have a car. God’s honest truth. I said it. Sorry not sorry. That being said, I did end up actually falling for Cairns a little bit and it did turn out that I was sad to leave after the week that I spent there. I do kind of attribute that more to the company that I had there, but Cairns did grow on me.

First off, let’s talk about the hostel I stayed at—Calypso Mad Monkeys. Now, Mad Monkeys itself has three or four hostels in Cairns and I think they’re building or remodeling another one. So you may stay at a Mad Monkeys in Cairns that’s not this one, it’s confusing, I know. Getting here was super easy, there is a bus that does airport transfers to, I’m assuming, anywhere in Cairns. I already knew I was going to be taking a Greyhound out of town, and not flying, so I only paid the one way ticket instead of getting a return ticket. So honestly, I don’t know how the return works, I’m assuming you either set it up when they bring you to your accommodation, or you just have to call and set it up at said accommodation the day before or day of. Anyway the transfer that I used was Sun Palm Transport and it cost me $16 AUD, though if you look online it only says $15 so I don’t really know. I guess it depends on if they like you or not. The transfer drops you off right at the door of your accommodation though so that was pretty nice. When checking in, the reception informed me of the awesome wifi, and I gotta say, it was just that. It was fast, strong, and worked well in the room, which is always a massive plus.

This was a bit of a party hostel, which is pretty common in Australia. Most people are looking for a party for the most part, personally I’m just looking for sociable people. There was a pool and a decent common area with a bar.

Since they were licensed to sell liquor that meant no BYOB, but the drinks were actually decently priced. A pitcher of beer was $12, and that’s all I drank the entire time I was there, so I can’t actually give any real number for mixed drinks or wine. The bar had some rowdy nights while I was there, and my room was right next to the bar, so it was pretty loud. I did quite enjoy the playlists on drag night, lots of Backstreet Boys, Cindy Lauper, Shania Twain, etc. Really good shit, minus the fact that I was trying to sleep. They do, however, turn off the music at midnight which is super nice. That is, until some drunk guy wanders into your room yelling “hey guuuuuurlzzzzz”. This guy was stumbling around, petting the girls in the bottom bunks (for once I was glad to have a top bunk). He stumbled back out of the room and I hoped that was because he realized he was in the wrong room, and then he stumbled back in and tried to climb the ladder to the only empty bed. He fell down it and stumbled back out and I got up and locked him out. Good riddance, leave us alone guy. And then, tragedy, he had a key and came back in. He did finally make it up to the bed, but I had a lingering fear for Luzie, who was in the bunk below him, that he was going to vomit on her. Spoiler alert: he didn’t, but he was a righteous ass in the morning about a few of the girls turning the lights on. They gave him some sufficient death glares though and that was that.

There were two kitchens, both were kind of tiny, but they are currently doing a ton of renovations on the hostel. In fact, when I booked I went for the cheapest option (as you do) and booked an 8 bed dorm, but they were renovating all of the 8 bed dorms so they put me in a 6 bed dorm instead. They were also adding a bunch of storage for food, and what looked like another, much larger kitchen in the main area. Otherwise, seriously, such a tiny kitchen for a decent sized hostel, even if there was only two or three others in there at the same time trying to cook it was practically impossible. I am interested to see what the hostel is like in a few months when renovations are done. Unfortunately, yet again, I apparently didn’t take any flippin photos. I hate myself. I will try to do better.

Here’s a hammock. Nice right?

Every other Sunday there’s a huge pool party, however I arrived the day after the pool party and therefore didn’t get to participate or give any first-hand accounts of it. I heard it was insane though. People getting thrown into the pool, a massive sea of people, music, etc. Picture an insane pool party, I’m sure what you’re picturing is probably what it was like. I heard a rumor that all of the mad monkey hostels in Cairns advertise for it, so that would mean there was somewhere around quadruple the amount of people there as were actually staying at Calypso. Hindsight, maybe I’m glad I missed out on that one.

One of my favorite perks about this hostel though had to be the free brekky. There was toast, beans, pancakes, cereal, granola, muesli, yogurt, milk, all sorts of stuff. Usually free breakfast is toast and maybe one kind of cereal, but this was real. Two of my most important things were covered by this hostel—good WiFi and good free brekky. Points to you Calypso.

The location was a little tough, being about a 20 minute walk to town (and the closest affordable supermarket), but it wasn’t a complete deal breaker. There was a hostel shuttle that went every hour into town, or the walk along the esplanade was pretty.

I thought it was rather silly though that people would actively wait for the shuttle to be going out, when they could have just walked to town in the amount of time that they waited. Yes, the bus did have air con, but seriously, walking is good for you, don’t waste time waiting for the shuttle to head out.

As for the city/town/whatever of Cairns itself, well the only real thing to do there besides spend a ton of money on tours, is go to the lagoon (and walk along the esplanade, but we’ve already done that now haven’t we).

The lagoon exists because a) there are salt water crocodiles that will eat you, and b) Cairns doesn’t have a beach, it has mud flats.

I don’t actually know if this is the name of them, but they’re muddy, and they’re flat, so that’s what we’re calling them. I honestly didn’t even ever see the water at high tide in Cairns so it was a constant view of mud, lots of mud, kind of ugly honestly, but who am I to judge.

Maybe there’s some sort of beauty there? Anyway, the lagoon is quite nice, there’s sand along one edge, and it has some water features, and it doesn’t get TOO deep.

There are a few super nice barbecues

and a few small restaurants along the water, along with a ton of shade and grassy areas as well. The lagoon is actually just on the water front so you can look out at the nice mud flats while enjoying your fake ocean swimming experience.

I mean, the lagoon does keep you from getting eaten by a crocodile, so I’m all game for sticking around there. It’s also just really relaxed and pretty nice to lay back and read a book or lay out in the sun.

The day I went we grabbed some fruit and found ourselves a spot. I, of course, got myself a quarter of a watermelon, and two others, upon seeing how much of a genius I was, got some too. This means we ended up with almost an entire watermelon between three of us. I know this sounds perfect, how could there possibly ever be TOO MUCH watermelon? Well, it was too much. Way too much. Also we had no utensils so the three of us were just sitting there holding these giant cuts of watermelon, seriously debating if we were just going to go for it like barbarians. Instead we decided to ask one of the restaurants for a few spoons. I was fully expecting Luzie (lovely little miss staying at the hostel with me) to come back with just a few plastic spoons. Nope, she came back with three real life spoons, like actual cutlery. The girl working was apparently a little scared to give them up, which is completely understandable, but Luzie talked her into it by pointing out that we were just over yonder. Anyway, I tried not to be a quitter and I kept going for my watermelon for a little while after I was sufficiently stuffed, and still only ended up eating about three quarters of it (maybe even only two thirds). I’m a complete failure.

A few of us laid out in the sun and I did some reading for a while. Personally, I can only hang out like that for so long before getting sooooo bored, so Cairns was not exactly the place for me, seeing as how all it seemed to have for a broke backpacker was the lagoon. Otherwise, you can do helicopter sightseeing tours, tours into Daintree National Park and up to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation, or down to the waterfalls south of Cairns. I, personally, was unwilling to spend a few hundred dollars on tours of these places and instead managed to find a few girls at the hostel willing to share the cost of a rental so we could explore the area ourselves. That’s a whole other blog/story in and of itself though so you’ll have to stay tuned for that one. Toodles kids.

Oh by the way, if anyone has tips, ideas, questions, stuff they want to see, stuff they don’t care about, let me know aye? It’s hard to just write about my life while also trying to be informative I guess. So yeah, help a girl out. Let me know what I’m missing. Comment here or email at

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