THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE!
1. LAGOON & BBQ AREA
Fun fact: The Lagoon is the shape of our state, Queensland!
Without spending a cent you can swim and relax for free as long as you want in the Cairns CBD. Close to most Cairns Hostels, this is a perfect way to spend the day as a backpacker who needs to save some dosh! Stop by the large Woolworths supermarket only 2 blocks away to shop for a picnic or BBQ items as there are many free BBQ’s with prep areas around the Lagoon. Take part in a "True Blue" Australian past time! The only other thing you will need to pay for is sunscreen (and food)!
Check out my Lagoon shots on my Instagram.
2. ART & EXHIBITIONS
Fun fact: The Centre of Contemporary Art (COCA) has cool Jelly Babies sculptures out the front that make for some wicked selfies!
COCA Cairns is located on Abbot Street. It’s a small gallery with free entry (coin donations can be made) showcasing mainly local and Indigenous art. Sometimes one of the exhibits cost to get in. They have a cool little gift shop where you can buy many unique Cairns made souvenirs or gifts. There’s also a quirky al fresco cafe Paradisio http://paradisocairns.com.au for some refuelling before heading to the next gallery.
The Regional Art Gallery (again) is a small gallery located in a statuesque building on the corner of Shields and Abbott street. Free entry once more with a possibility of an exhibition you may need to pay for. They also have a quaint little gift shop with unique purchases plus a cafe.
Known as simply “The Tanks” these converted x5 WW2 oil storage tankers have been converted into concert, event and exhibition spaces. It is located in Edge Hill next to the Botanical Gardens and they regularly have free exhibitions from local artists (if no big events are on). Gold coin donation would be nice :) Travel here by car (10 minutes from Cairns CBD) Bus (small ticket price) or bike (cheap bike hire). Walking takes 45 minutes to an hour for FREE!!!!! http://www.tanksartscentre.com
3. FUN FOR THE FAMILY
Muddy’s playground (named after our famous Cairns mud flats) is free family fun right on the Esplanade. It’s themed on “Life in Trinity Bay” and includes water play (get your children into their swimmers!) flying fox, rope bridge, slides, close toilets, BBQ’s and more. Many Cairns locals hold children’s birthday parties here so get in early if you need a BBQ or table and chairs. Oh… if you do have a few dollars the parents can relax with some caffeine and regain sanity while the children play at the cafe.
The Fig Tree Playground (next to the Cruise Liner Terminal) is also free with slides and… well… it’s pretty much like a fort. What child doesn’t LOVE a fort?!?!
4. BROWSING THE MARKETS
Top Tip: Cheap Massage in the Night markets to ease your weary snorkelling bones!
Rusty’s Fresh produce market (under the Gilligans Backpackers building on Grafton street) is on Fridays, Saturdays and most of Sunday. Yes… predominately fresh local produce and local food stalls (I really love the coffee stall and Hari Krishna stall) where you need to spend some money however most of the stalls have little tasting plates out so you can taste their produce, on the sly! Strolling through here you will pass many locals, this is a real “Cairns” place. Many of us locals get our fresh produce here (we always seek out the local stalls and shop with them, some are importers so be careful!) and our fresh produce comes from the rich volcanic soils of the Atherton Tablelands.
The Night Market are located on the Esplanade (entry also via Abbott Street) and are a touristy place to shop but free to cruise through and thankfully for the tropics, you can visit these markets in the cool of the night after your visit to the reef in air conditioning! It starts around 5pm until 11pm. Open every night.
5. THE ESPLANADE & FOGARTY PARK
You can always take a walk on the Esplanade for free, and if you’re in the Cairns CBD, the Esplanade is the place! You can power walk the path along the waters edge or use the free exercise equipment (the council calls this their “green gym” along the Esplanade, waters edge) if you feel energetic or join in a game of beach volleyball or take a skate board to the skate complex. OR, if you like a slower pace of life just take a seat and people watch.
There are free fitness sessions in Cairns (yup… FREE!) and it’s under the Cairns Council “Active Living” free fitness classes and are held in awesome locations, like at the Lagoon and Fogarty Park. There is Aqua Zumba at the Lagoon and Zumba fitness at Fogarty Park (for example). Pretty awesome if you want to curb that holiday cheese and wine! http://www.cairns.qld.gov.au/esplanade/whats-on/active-living